SBL… and things that are defined as real

Est. read time: 3 min
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)

If anyone were to suggest to SBL members that that acronym translates as a ‘Stinking Bunch of Layabouts – who cannot be depended upon to act with integrity’, rather than the Society of Black Lawyers, there would no doubt be outrage to the extent that SBL members would reach for the nearest lawyer, with protests such as: disgraceful, disgusting, defamatory… and no doubt more.

When in May this year the Solicitors Regulation Authority published my report of the independent comparative case review of disproportionality in regulatory action and outcomes for BME solicitors which they commissioned me to conduct in July 2012, SBL sent a note round to its members decrying the findings of the review and suggesting, in terms, that I must have received my ‘thirty pieces of silver’ in return for not concluding that the SRA had discriminated against black and ethnic minority solicitors and was guilty of institutional racism.

There then followed a SBL press release which charged that the report was ‘fundamentally flawed’, with one of the ‘flaws’ being a potential conflict of interest, the alleged details of which formed absolutely no part of my report.

Since then, it has been suggested to lawyers interested in studying the findings and recommendations of the report that it is not credible and therefore not worthy of their time and effort, and that Gus John must now be ‘a very rich man’. It came as no surprise to me, therefore, to learn that the Chair of the Society of Black Lawyers, Peter Herbert OBE, a part-time judge, had put in a Freedom of Information request to the SRA seeking disclosure of what my organisation was paid for conducting the review.

The sociologist William Isaac Thomas (1863–1947), in explaining the phenomenon of the self-fulfilling prophecy, postulated that ‘If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences’. To tweak the analogy somewhat, having imagined corrupt dealings between the SRA and me, SBL went fishing for evidence that would make what was real in their imagination actual in reality. And no doubt, SBL would claim that it was acting ‘in the public interest’.

What intrigues me about this sequence of events is this. Why have I not heard of or seen any protest on the part of SBL members in response to the initial ’30 pieces of silver’ slur? This is intriguing because I do not believe for one moment that there would have been such a resounding silence if the scenario with which I started this piece were real rather than hypothetical.

That leads me to exercise my freedom and seek the following information in the public interest:

Who and what is SBL?

How many members does it have?

Why is it that in my own experience, i.e., when I have attended their meetings by invitation, an average attendance of 7 people was considered ‘good’? (It may well be that there are a further 77, or even 777, ‘sleeping’ members)

When did SBL last hold an annual general meeting?

When did it last elect honorary officers or executive members?

Who approves circular email messages such as the one that first suggested that ‘30 pieces of silver’ might have exchanged hands?

Now that Judge Peter Herbert OBE has had a response to his freedom of Information request from the SRA, I trust that for the sake of completeness he has apprised SBL members of that information and has guided them as to the true value of the ’30 pieces of silver’.

In closing, let me volunteer this pledge: SBL, the Society of Black Lawyers, will be the first to know if and when Gus John becomes a very rich man!

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