Solicitors: Sanctions

Ministry of Justice written question – answered on 10th June 2022.

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Photo of Steve Reed Steve Reed Shadow Secretary of State for Justice

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what steps he is taking to support the Solicitors Regulation Authority in ensuring compliance of solicitors' firms with the Government's sanctions regime.

Photo of James Cartlidge James Cartlidge Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Ministry of Justice) , Assistant Whip

Under the framework established by the Legal Services Act 2007, the legal profession in England and Wales operates independently of the government. Regulation of legal services is independent of the professions and government.

Lawyers are required to follow strict procedures when transacting with sanctioned individuals. Those individuals are required to obtain a licence from the Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation to make payments for legal services, and lawyers should carefully consider whether their advice is helping the client to comply with the sanctions or is participating or facilitating a breach of those sanctions. There are severe penalties for breaches, including fines and potential imprisonment.

Legal sector regulators are looking at what can be done to further improve the enforcement of the restrictions under the current sanction and anti-money laundering regime. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has also recently consulted on increasing its internal fining powers.

Following the SRA’s consultation on financial penalties, my right hon. Friend, the Deputy Prime Minister, has sought the views of the Law Society, SRA and Legal Services Board on increasing the SRA’s maximum internal fine amount from £2,000 to £25,000, with the view of enhancing the SRA’s enforcement powers to create a stronger deterrent to solicitor misconduct. The Department is also continuing to work closely with regulators and professional bodies to identify tools that will further assist regulators in carrying out their duties under the sanctions regime, while protecting the rule of law.

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