Offensive communications warning notice
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) have taken the unusual step of issuing an “offensive communications” warning notice to all solicitors and those working in SRA regulated practices.
The SRA state in the notice that solicitors should take care to make sure that any communications which they send are always professional, lawful and do not cause offence.
The notice, which relates to solicitors responsibilities when sending emails or letters, and when using social media, was issued following an increase in reports of solicitors falling below the standards expected of them and is to include online comments posted in a personal capacity and which might be deemed offensive or inappropriate if the poster can be identified as a solicitor.
The warning notice contains examples of the type of behaviour that the SRA have investigated, (and which they have subsequently referred to the SDT), and which include:
- making offensive or pejorative comments relating to another person’s race, sexual orientation or religion,
- referring to women in derogatory terms and making sexually explicit comments,
- making comments which harass or victimise the recipient,
- using language intended to shock or threaten, and
- making offensive or abusive comments to another firm about that firm or its client, or to individuals who are unrepresented.
The warning notice reminds solicitors not only of the need to uphold the rule of law and proper administration of justice, and to act with integrity, but also to act in a way that maintains the trust the public places in the profession. It also stresses that the requirements apply not only when communicating with third parties outside the firm, but also to emails addressed to colleagues within the firm and the fact that the sender intended any communication to be private will not excuse their conduct.
The warning notice can be found at www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/code-of-conduct/guidance/warning-notices/Offensive-communications–Warning-notice.page