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.
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.
In a disparaging response to the group, which comprises people ‘who are supposed to be lawyers’, John said: ‘Members of the EIG could have written to me, collectively or individually, to share their reactions or concerns about my report. They all chose not to do so.’
He said he did not intend to answer the EIG’s ‘wild and baseless’ claims, but insisted that his conclusions and recommendations were based on evidence gathered and analysed in accordance with the study’s terms of reference, dismissing any allegation that the SRA had tried to ‘gag’ him or tell him what to write.
He branded the diversity groups’ verdict on his report as such a ‘caricature’ as to be a ‘complete travesty’ and accused them of seeking to ‘claim the moral high ground in the struggle against racism’.
‘It would appear that because the report does not say what the members of six practitioner groups wanted it to say, never mind the evidence, they consider themselves to be at liberty to rubbish it,’ said John.
The article above was published by The Law Society Gazette on April 8th, 2014