The SRA responds to Independent Comparative Case Review Report

June 3, 2014 in Blog, Highlights

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has published its response to my ICCR report which it published in March 2014 and committed itself to taking action to tackle disproportionality in regulatory action and outcomes for BME solicitors.

Outlining the range of actions to which it has committed itself, the SRA stated:

  • we have announced a programme of regulatory reform to ensure our regulation is more targeted and proportionate;
  • we will publish proposals to reduce regulatory burdens for small firms and to improve our engagement with, and regulation of, them;
  • we will engage with the Law Society, other representative bodies, firms and solicitors to identify ways to improve the co-ordination of efforts to improve diversity within law firms and to identify more effective approaches for the future. We will publish the outcome of this work in October;
  • we will use the data from the ICCR report and our regulatory outcomes report to analyse and understand the causes of disproportionality better so that we can address the issues and reduce disproportionality;
  • we will review the content of our regulatory outcomes report, start publishing it twice a year and undertake more engagement with stakeholders about what it is indicating, with a view to identifying priority areas for action;
  • we will revise and strengthen our internal quality assurance processes so as to provide greater assurance that our discretionary decisions are fair, consistent and free from bias;
  • we will publish an annual report on discrimination issues raised by law firms’ employees and consumers;
  • we will recruit people with expertise to join the SRA Board’s Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Committee (ED&I) to advise and support it in leading the work to tackle the issues identified in the ICCR report;
  • we will continue to take action to improve the diversity profile of our staff and develop effective training and professional development so that our staff have the confidence and skills to make fair and transparent decisions;
  • we will publish an update on our work on the issues identified in the ICCR at the end of October 2014, and a full report on progress in October 2015.

The SRA thanked the core team:

‘… Professor John and Anthony Robinson for their commitment to this project, their diligent examination of the issues and their recommendations. The report has added significantly to our understanding of this important issue. We would also like to thank Lord Herman Ouseley and the members of the EIG for their contribution to this work and for their assistance over a number of years in helping the SRA with this work. All of the organisations represented on the EIG are small and the members of those organisations who have attended the EIG and many other meetings with the SRA have given up their own time, freely, on behalf of their colleagues’.

I am encouraged by the SRA’s response and I hope the regulated profession as a whole and BME practitioners in particular will be, also.

From the outset, I was relieved that the SRA received my report without defensiveness and showed its commitment to giving careful consideration to its findings and recommendations and especially its implications for the way the organisation functions generally. I see this response as further evidence of that commitment and of a willingness to use the report as a vehicle for change. Read the rest of this entry →

Uncovering the truth of Walter Rodney’s ‘assassination’

May 10, 2014 in Gus in the Media, Print

The following article was published by The Voice on May 4th, 2014

Image captured from The Voice's website

Click here to read The Voice

A COMMITTEE to aid an inquiry into the alleged assassination of prominent international activist Walter Rodney has called for “vigilance” to insure the investigation uncovers the truth.

The Justice for Walter Rodney Committee (JWRC) was launched last month to support the inquiry, which began on April 28, into the death of the historian and political activist.

Rodney, author of seminal texts The Groundings With My Brothers (1969) and How Europe Underdeveloped Africa (1972), was killed in what is being called a ‘suspected assassination’ in Georgetown, Guyana on June 13, 1980, when an explosive device concealed in a walkie-talkie radio went off.

The former professor of the University of the West Indies, had challenged the then Forbes Burnham administration in Guyana, forming a new political group, the Working People’s Alliance, whose influence spread to the rest of the Caribbean, the US, Africa and Europe.

The Commission of Inquiry into his death was set up in June 2013 by Guyana’s president Donald Ramotar, following a request by the family.

The three-member commission comprises top Barbadian attorney, Sir Richard Cheltenham QC, Jacqueline Samuels-Brown QC from Jamaica and Trinidadian senior counsel Seenath Jairam. Read the rest of this entry →

John rages at ‘illiterate rantings’ of diversity report critics

May 8, 2014 in Gus in the Media, Print


The following article was published by The Law Society Gazette on April 8th, 2014

The author of a report clearing the Solicitors Regulation Authority of institutional racism has hit back at the ‘wild and baseless claims’ of its critics, branding them ‘illiterate rantings’.

In a lengthy defence of his 237-page report into the disproportionate representation of black and minority ethnic (BME) lawyers in the SRA’s regulatory activity, Professor Gus John said the ‘kindest’ thing that can be said about the ‘illiterate rantings’ of the diversity groups’ response, is that they ‘did not bother’ to read the report before issuing the response.

The Law Society Gazette

Click here to read The Law Society Gazette

John’s report, published last month, found that BME solicitors are disproportionately represented among those investigated by the SRA and receive harsher sanctions. But he suggested that the regulator is not institutionally racist.

John said the problem lies instead in wider socio-economic factors which mean BME solicitors are over-represented in small firms or are sole practitioners. Both constituencies encounter greater regulatory intervention.

The Equality Implementation Group (EIG), comprising six groups representing BME solicitors, dismissed as ‘fundamentally flawed’ John’s report, which they claimed lacked any ‘evidential basis or data’ for its findings. They said his failure to draw any inference of institutional racism was a ‘shocking indictment of a costly report that promised much but has delivered very little of value’.

John said he had met members of the group and provided them with regular updates throughout the course of the review. Read the rest of this entry →

A tribute to Athelston Winston Best

March 29, 2014 in Blog

It is impossible to speak or write about the British schooling system and its engagement with the post-war Black presence these last 50 years without calling the name, Winston Best, over and over again.  Without doubt, Winston stands in the vanguard of the black working class movement in education and schooling as both an educator and an activist.

Athelston Winston Best. Photo courtesy of the Best family.

Athelston Winston Best. Photo courtesy of the Best family.

Winston (pictured right) was born on 15 August 1930 in Sugar Hill, St Joseph, Barbados, the first of six children of Luther and Lillian Best. Luther was a road builder and Lillian a market trader. Winston was big brother to Eulene, Gloria, Moriah, Lloyd and Owen. Gloria in Canada, Moriah in Brooklyn, Owen in Atlanta, Lloyd in Barbados and Eulene in Ipswich, East Anglia. Winston and later Lloyd came to England, Lloyd returning to Barbados after almost 40 years.

Winston attended Southborough Boys School, Clifton Hill, St Thomas. At that time, only primary schooling was free. Winston’s parents paid for him to attend secondary school. After secondary school, he left and went to work in Curacao where he spent 12 years with Shell doing oil refining. He became very active in labour organisation there with Len and Albert Mason.

Winston was therefore able to assist his parents in paying for his siblings to attend secondary school; he makes particular mention of Lloyd at Cumbermere and Owen at Lodge School. Lodge School was one of the most racially segregated schools in Barbados. Winston acknowledged that Patrick Simmons, former Barbados High Commissioner in England, was one of those who was instrumental in helping to break down what Winston described as the ‘apartheid schooling system’ at Lodge School and in Barbados generally.

In time, Winston took charge of the care of his parents. His mother died in 1984. Mert Pitt, childhood friend of Winston and lifelong friend of the Best family, helped to care for his mother in her twilight years. Read the rest of this entry →

Independent Comparative Case Review published

March 18, 2014 in Blog

Royal Courts of Justice ("Courts' Closed") by Chris Kealy (Flickr - CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Royal Courts of Justice (“Courts’ Closed”) by Chris Kealy (Flickr – CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

In 2013, the report of the most comprehensive review of Legal Education and Training (LETR) for 30 years was published.  That report was commissioned by the Bar Standards Board (BSB), the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX). Professor Gus John chaired the LETR’s working group on Equality, Diversity and Social Mobility.

Also in 2013, Professor John conducted an Independent Comparative Case Review (ICCR) for the SRA:

‘to identify whether there is disparity in the way the SRA applies its policies and procedures in dealing with BME practitioners as compared to others with a view to identifying potential improvements to such practices, policies and procedures to maximise fairness and consistency…’

Earlier reviews (Ouseley 2008; Pearn Kandola 2010) had revealed evidence of disproportionate regulatory outcomes for black and minority ethnic solicitors. The SRA was keen to establish whether such disproportionality as was found was on account of the ethnicity of BME solicitors, or on account of the application of its own policies and procedures, the result of extraneous factors, or a combination of all those. Professor John’s report was published on 13 March 2014.

The review found evidence of disproportionality at three stages of the regulatory process, namely:  at the point at which a case is raised or a complaint is registered against a solicitor or a practice; in the process of investigating that complaint and at the point at which an outcome is determined or/and a sanction imposed. Disproportionality in the number of cases raised is not necessarily as a result of SRA action. Cases could be raised or complaints registered by members of the public, other solicitors, through self-referrals, or by other external agents. Read the rest of this entry →