Preparing for your SDT Hearing What to expect
Where to go
Your hearing will take place at:
3rd Floor, Gate House
1 Farringdon Street
Please note: that the Tribunal does not sit at the Law Society on Chancery Lane.
What to do on arrival
When you arrive at the address, you should take the lift to the 3rd Floor. You should inform the building security guard in reception that you are attending the SDT. The reception for the SDT is on the 3rd floor and you should sign in here on arrival. The Court list will be available and will detail the floor and court room where your hearing will take place. You should make your way to the appropriate court room and wait for the clerk to the Tribunal to take your details. There are private conference rooms available outside each court room and you may feel more comfortable waiting in one of these.
What to expect
Each court room which is being used that day will have an assigned clerk. They will make themselves known to you and ask whether you have any preliminary issues you wish to be considered before the hearing takes place.
Once your hearing is called, you will be called into the relevant court room for your case to be considered.
It is important to note that unless an application is made otherwise, the hearing will not be in private and members of the public are able to attend to view proceedings.
The panel considering your case is made up of a chairperson and two other members. The chair and one of the other members of the panel are both solicitors and the third person on the panel will be a lay member. The panel members may well not practise in the area of law which is the subject matter of the allegations against you.
Also in the court room is the clerk, their role is to support the panel and guide members of points of law and procedure.
There will be space for you to sit, whether alone or with your legal representative facing the Tribunal and the clerk, who sits to one side. You will sit next to the Applicant if you are representing yourself or if represented you will usually sit in the second row. You may be in the same row as a legal representative of the SRA if they are acting as instructing solicitor. It is not uncommon for both a caseworker and an advocate to be present on behalf of the SRA.
If there is to be a trial the case will consist of the panel hearing from all the witnesses in the case, this may include the formal reading into evidence of any uncontested statements. Once the SRA have concluded their case and you have had the opportunity to cross examine their witnesses, you will be expected to give evidence on oath and after being cross examined will be entitled to call any witnesses in support of your case.
Once all the evidence has been heard, the panel will reach a decision. If the case goes against you, it is possible that the SDT will adjourn for sanction to be considered but in most instances, they will be ready to deal with sanction as soon as they have reached their decision. On that basis, you should have any relevant evidence to hand to be able to mitigate your position.
If the allegations are admitted the procedure will be quicker as the evidence will be outlined by the Applicant and evidence may not be called by the SRA. You will still be at liberty to call evidence if you wish.
What to bring
You should take all the evidence upon which you need to rely, you should also take a copy of all the paperwork which will be before the Tribunal. This will include a copy of the SRA paperwork as well as anything you have submitted to the Tribunal in advance. Sometimes these can be substantial. You should be equipped to produce any evidence including references in hard copy.
You should take any references you have collected. This will be useful to the Tribunal in evaluating your standing and can influence any view they gain of you and the appropriate sanction should they find against you. It is important to note that any references you present to the panel are likely to be more influential if they refer to the proceedings against you. References which demonstrate that referees are unaware of the existence of the proceedings are likely to carry less weight.
Six copies of any documents you are intending to rely upon should be provided so that everybody involved in the proceedings can have a copy.
What to do in advance
There will have been a case management hearing at the outset of the case and various directions will have been made by the Tribunal regarding the service of statements and evidence which is to be relied upon. It is essential that all these directions are complied with. If for whatever reason you are unable to comply with any directions, an application for an extension should be made setting out the reasons why an extension is necessary and the Tribunal will not simply agree any extension unless there are good reasons for requesting it. Be aware of the practice directions and note that requests for adjournments are rarely granted.
A few days before the hearing, it will be worth reviewing the statement you have prepared for the Tribunal proceedings to refresh your memory. The night before the hearing you should try and get a good night’s sleep as well as planning your journey to give yourself plenty of time to arrive at the SDT and not be flustered on your arrival.
What to do during the hearing
If you are being represented, you will only need to concentrate on your own evidence. If you are representing yourself, you will be given an opportunity to ask questions of any witnesses who attend to give evidence.
When you give evidence yourself, it is important to speak as clearly and calmly as possible and address your answers to the panel members. They will ask you questions about your conduct and ask you to explain what has happened. You should think about what you are saying and if there is anything that you do not understand, you should ask for an explanation. You should not guess or speculate if you do not know the answer to any question.
There are toilets, including disabled facilities, within the building although these may not necessarily be on the floor where your hearing is being heard.
Tea, coffee and water is available free of charge and there are numerous facilities in the surrounding area (including 2 supermarkets on opposite corners of Ludgate circus) where you will be able to purchase refreshments when the Tribunal is not sitting.
The Tribunal also has hearing loop facilities in the court room if required. You should ask the clerk to the Tribunal if you have any special requirements.