British lawyers’ body in race row, brings it in conflict with police

August 17th, 2008 - 3:39 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 17 (IANS) Charges of racial discrimination against Asians that sought to tarnish the image of London’s police force have now brought into question actions of the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA), the body that regulates solicitors. Equality groups have called for the Metropolitan Police’s top legal officer to step down from his post as member of the ethics committee of the SRA so as not to taint his parent body through his association with the authority.

Edward Solomons, director of legal services for the Metropolitan Police who is overseeing several race discrimination claims against the force, is chair of the ethics committee at the SRA, which last week was described by one lawyer as one of the “most racist ever” organisations in Britain.

Equality lawyers last night demanded that Solomons step down from advising on contentious racial discrimination cases involving the Metropolitan Police, The Observer reported.

The demands come before a potentially explosive move on Wednesday by Britain’s highest-ranking Asian police officer, Tarique Ghaffur, who will formally lodge a legal action against Scotland Yard alleging racial discrimination.

The demand essentially comes in the wake of last Thursday’s independent report into the SRA, written by Lord Ouseley, former head of the Commission for Racial Equality, heavily criticising the leadership of the solicitors’ body.

It said such were the potential discriminatory effects of the way it conducted business that the SRA could, in effect, be dubbed racist and “open to the charge of institutional racism”.

Ouseley also found that SRA staff paid “lip service” to equality and “stereotyped” black and Asian lawyers by assuming guilt before investigating. His investigation was prompted by concerns that black and Asian solicitors were more likely to be targeted for investigation by the SRA, which is the regulatory arm of the Law Society.

The SRA said it had started introducing key recommendations included in Ouseley’s report and would publish a new equality strategy for the body next month. A statement said the Ouseley report had found no evidence of any “inappropriate findings” made against solicitors by the SRA.

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