The blog linked to below was published last month, but I have held off commenting on it because I had an interview request pending with the president of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal and didn't want to prejudice it.
To my complete lack of surprise, I've now had a flat rejection, with no reasons (not for the first time, I should add), and so can say now what I wanted to write then.
The contents of the blog are par for the course when it comes to the SDT. Of the many bodies in the profession with which I've had to deal in the past 20 years as a legal journalist, none has been as consistently unhelpful and uncommunicative as the SDT.
My instinct is that this behaviour flows from the zealous and jealous way it guards its independence. Why that should make communicating with the tribunal so difficult, I don't know, but I feel it is directly connected somehow.
I have made the point to them that if the senior judiciary feel able to conduct interviews, there is no reason why the president of the SDT should not, but it is an argument that seems to fall on deaf ears.
From what I can see, beyond the High Court's oversight via judicial review, there is little or no effective supervision of the SDT. Interviews with journalists may only be a small part of holding the SDT to account, but it is a step they should take, especially at a time when the tribunal (through consultation responses) is becoming more vocal about policy issues around regulation, such as its opposition to the SRA's proposal to remove the requirements for accountants' reports and to the SRA’s bid to increase its internal fining powers.
But do I hold out any hope that its approach will change? Sadly no. I know that members of the public can go and watch the SDT in action, so it is not operating in secret, but the SDT does seem to like operating in the dark.
NB I should say that the SDT was recently surprisingly helpful - for the first time that I can recall - in providing me with the ruling that led to this story. It was perhaps significant that this was a ruling about the SRA's internal fining powers.
does the SDT really believe its site has the functionality to enable anyone to make assessments of ‘proportionality and consistency’ at anything but a very basic level of comparison? In the context of increasing concerns about the accountability of professionals, and the historic evidence from a number of jurisdictions of under-enforcement of disciplinary breaches, the point should not be considered purely academic.