Chartered accountants could be tried in local courts for minorfor minor offences. offences, if proposals put forward by the Small Practitioners Association win favour in the English ICA’s review of disciplinary rules.
The association believes that local courts will allow chartereds the opportunity to contest accusations made by clients without facing the ‘high cost’ of taking their case to a full disciplinary hearing.
Peter Mitchell, the SPA’s chairman, said he wanted free legal advice to be provided at the outset of each case in the local courts and the opportunity for members found innocent to be awarded their costs. He also wanted a blanket ban on publicity. He said publicity ‘should only be given to those cases found proven by the disciplinary committee’.
He added: ‘We want to establish local courts for minor offences. And we think these courts should be constructive rather than punitive.’
The association’s proposals are contained in a detailed 14-page submission to Michael Beloff, QC, the barrister asked to take charge of the review by the institute’s executive.
Last week, several institute council members, including Mitchell, complained that the institute’s executive had restricted the areas tackled by the review.
Mitchell was supported by council member Douglas Llambias when he called for the institute to back a wider review. But this week Llambias said he could not support proposals for local courts held behind closed doors.
‘I would be in favour of the tribunal making a discretionary award of costs to members found not guilty, but I wouldn’t support a legal aid system for members who are reported to the institute or a ban on publicity like this,’ he said.
The controversial review of the institute’s education syllabus will receive the backing of members, according to Chairman of the Education and Training Directorate Peter Wyman.
Chris Swinson, the newly elected president of the English ICA, has suggested the proposals for a regulator covering all the recognised accountancy bodies could be adopted for other professions.
Swinson said his Review Board plan, which was submitted to the Department of Trade and Industry in March, offered a structure that could be adopted as a US-style ‘oversight board’ to regulate other professional bodies.
He stepped back from naming other professions that might be included, but observers said it was a reference to the legal profession. The Law Society has faced increasing criticism for mis-handling its regulatory role in particular.
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