SRA Suitability Test Watch

LPCLondon
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Hiya,I've just recently started the LPC and they have been heavily impressing upon us the need to disclose things to the SRA that may make us unsuitable.

I was once given an informal warning for possession of recreational drugs, does anyone know if this is something that needs to be disclosed? If so will it cause me to be deemed unfit to practice?

At the time it was made very clear that nothing would be on my record, but obviously I want to make sure I am fully compliant.
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LPCLondon
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(Original post by J-SP)
As I understand it you should include warnings/cautions in your suitability test information. The SRA guidance suggests these should be included, although it might depend if it is a protected caution or not.

Either way, it is unlikely to stop you from being able to practice though. But it does depend on individual circumstances. One caution for this type of offence is usually not an issue (I have seen people with similar circumstances who have carried on with the LPC/TC/or who have qualified). It's usually anything that shows any question of integrity/dishonesty which is far more likely to cause problems.

It's probably advisable to get some advice from someone about your specific situation though - best bet is to speak to your law school provider or the SRA about it.

You might want to line up a decent personal referee or two who work in reputable roles (experienced academics, legal professionals, someone in a strong professional career) who are willing to act as a character reference as that might be needed to support your particular case if the SRA are concerned.




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Thanks very much, that's very helpful.

I did try ringing the SRA but they weren't really able to do much except refer me to the guidance. I'm leaning towards disclosing but will take advice from my provider first. Thanks again!
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daniel-leons
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(Original post by LPCLondon)
Hiya,I've just recently started the LPC and they have been heavily impressing upon us the need to disclose things to the SRA that may make us unsuitable.

I was once given an informal warning for possession of recreational drugs, does anyone know if this is something that needs to be disclosed? If so will it cause me to be deemed unfit to practice?

At the time it was made very clear that nothing would be on my record, but obviously I want to make sure I am fully compliant.
Let me first say that I had a formal caution for possessing a small amount of a class A and was deemed suitable and have accepted a TC offer with a City firm. If in doubt, you should disclose it, but you can do an FOI request to the PNC to see if you actually have a caution or not. Secondly, how did you respond? I genuinely used it as an opportunity to reflect (it was the impetus behind me going to University), and I carried my experience with it forward and it made me more responsible as an individual. If they can see you have learned from the experience, they will find you suitable. Happy to answer any questions, as this made me worry incessantly for about 8 months.
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LPCLondon
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(Original post by daniel-leons)
Let me first say that I had a formal caution for possessing a small amount of a class A and was deemed suitable and have accepted a TC offer with a City firm. If in doubt, you should disclose it, but you can do an FOI request to the PNC to see if you actually have a caution or not. Secondly, how did you respond? I genuinely used it as an opportunity to reflect (it was the impetus behind me going to University), and I carried my experience with it forward and it made me more responsible as an individual. If they can see you have learned from the experience, they will find you suitable. Happy to answer any questions, as this made me worry incessantly for about 8 months.
Thanks very much, I will PM you in a minute as some first hand experience may help ease my mind a little.

(Original post by J-SP)
Typical SRA! Responsible for regulating the industry and yet can't provide any appropriate guidance on that regulation.

I know this might not be the popular option, but if you have a TC with a firm, you might want to speak to your HR contact and get their view. Unless they have a very small intake it is likely that have experienced this (or something similar) before.


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The man on the phone told me 'Half the test is knowing when to disclose something' which left me more confused than before if I'm honest.

I do have a TC so I will speak to my HR contact. I wish I'd considered this before really as having to pay back all my LPC fees and having no career would be more than a bit of a bummer. Thank you again for your advice
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LazyHare
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I went through very similar this summer and thought it would help you (or future googlers) if I set out my experience.

I got a TC offer this summer from a City firm (smallish intake, 15) as a career changer, I'm 27 and have been out of uni since 2012. When I was 18 I got a fixed penalty notice for smashing a glass outside of a pub. When the firm sent me the offer letter it included a requirement that I notify them of any suitability issues I might have with the SRA and that it was my responsibility to resolve them.

I spoke with the firm's HR department who were really relaxed about it (I had visions of a TC offer being withdrawn, nothing could have been further from the case). They just asked to be kept informed of the outcome, and recommended that I tackle it sooner rather than later.

I contacted the SRA, who confirmed my reading of the Regulations (which are awfully written) that I had to notify them and they would have to make an assessment. There is normally a GBP100 fee for assessment before the LPC, but this is waived if you have an offer of a TC. They advise that the process can take 6 months, but it took about 2 for me.

In total I was asked to submit:
References from employers/professionals I know in a work capacity/tutors
My own statement of events
Evidence of rehabilitation
Independent account of events and proof of payment of fine

References were easy to get, and I used evidence of having been signed up to a code of ethics in my previous employment as evidence of rehabilitation. I also stressed that this was a momentary lapse, that I deeply regretted it etc in my account.

The hardest part was getting an independent statement of events - I spent ages on the phone to different parts of the police force trying to find out if they still held records (they didn't) and to my bank at the time (I'd closed the account 8 years ago so they also didn't hold payment records). In the end I just told the SRA what had happened, that I couldn't get an independent statement and they were fine with it.

The whole process was fairly painful to be honest, particularly up until the point where you have a caseworker assigned to you (only once they have all of the information, and the guidance on this is completely inconsistent so it may require some back and forth) at which point everything went quite quickly with a couple of phone calls to politely explain the background to my case.

Overall I'm really glad to have this off my shoulders sooner rather than later, even though it hasn't exactly given me the best first impressions of the SRA.

TLDR: got fixed penalty notice 9 years ago, told firm and SRA, and both were ultimately content despite a lot of paperwork and admin to get to that point. Best to get it sorted asap.
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daniel-leons
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I also couldn't get an independent statement of events. It is a strange requirement for minor offences, as the police certainly are rarely going to be willing to provide one.

(Original post by LazyHare)
I went through very similar this summer and thought it would help you (or future googlers) if I set out my experience.

I got a TC offer this summer from a City firm (smallish intake, 15) as a career changer, I'm 27 and have been out of uni since 2012. When I was 18 I got a fixed penalty notice for smashing a glass outside of a pub. When the firm sent me the offer letter it included a requirement that I notify them of any suitability issues I might have with the SRA and that it was my responsibility to resolve them.

I spoke with the firm's HR department who were really relaxed about it (I had visions of a TC offer being withdrawn, nothing could have been further from the case). They just asked to be kept informed of the outcome, and recommended that I tackle it sooner rather than later.

I contacted the SRA, who confirmed my reading of the Regulations (which are awfully written) that I had to notify them and they would have to make an assessment. There is normally a GBP100 fee for assessment before the LPC, but this is waived if you have an offer of a TC. They advise that the process can take 6 months, but it took about 2 for me.

In total I was asked to submit:
References from employers/professionals I know in a work capacity/tutors
My own statement of events
Evidence of rehabilitation
Independent account of events and proof of payment of fine

References were easy to get, and I used evidence of having been signed up to a code of ethics in my previous employment as evidence of rehabilitation. I also stressed that this was a momentary lapse, that I deeply regretted it etc in my account.

The hardest part was getting an independent statement of events - I spent ages on the phone to different parts of the police force trying to find out if they still held records (they didn't) and to my bank at the time (I'd closed the account 8 years ago so they also didn't hold payment records). In the end I just told the SRA what had happened, that I couldn't get an independent statement and they were fine with it.

The whole process was fairly painful to be honest, particularly up until the point where you have a caseworker assigned to you (only once they have all of the information, and the guidance on this is completely inconsistent so it may require some back and forth) at which point everything went quite quickly with a couple of phone calls to politely explain the background to my case.

Overall I'm really glad to have this off my shoulders sooner rather than later, even though it hasn't exactly given me the best first impressions of the SRA.

TLDR: got fixed penalty notice 9 years ago, told firm and SRA, and both were ultimately content despite a lot of paperwork and admin to get to that point. Best to get it sorted asap.
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999tigger
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(Original post by J-SP)
Typical SRA! Responsible for regulating the industry and yet can't provide any appropriate guidance on that regulation.

I know this might not be the popular option, but if you have a TC with a firm, you might want to speak to your HR contact and get their view. Unless they have a very small intake it is likely that have experienced this (or something similar) before.


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Virtually certain all the info is online. Ive looked it up before plus there staff are very helpful on this matter, so I think you are being pretty unfair.
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999tigger
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(Original post by LPCLondon)
Hiya,I've just recently started the LPC and they have been heavily impressing upon us the need to disclose things to the SRA that may make us unsuitable.

I was once given an informal warning for possession of recreational drugs, does anyone know if this is something that needs to be disclosed? If so will it cause me to be deemed unfit to practice?

At the time it was made very clear that nothing would be on my record, but obviously I want to make sure I am fully compliant.
The rules are on the site, almost certain you will be fine. I would talk to them to see whetehr you even need to bother. Doubt it, but log the call if they give you the all clear or just e-mail them. Almost certain it will be nothing to worry about.
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999tigger
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(Original post by J-SP)
Your positive experience of the SRA will contrast strongly against the vast majority of people who have had to deal with them in various capacities. They have a notoriously bad reputation given their position.


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How can you argue about information being on the web site?

Do you speak for the vast majority of people? The people I have known havent had any grumbles when they have had issues like this.
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999tigger
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(Original post by J-SP)
The information on the website is open to interpretation - from the conversation this individual had with the SRA, the SRA even suggested this was the case. That's not great in my view. They should have a stance and clear advice.

I'm not sure what you or your contacts have had to deal with the SRA about - maybe that is something they are much better at dealing with. But when it has been anything about enrolment/qualification processes/CPD, and particularly changes to them over the last 10+ years, the legal sector has generally been in dismay at how awfully vague they are.

Don't get me started on how they have dealt with the equivalent means process or their approach to getting support on the new suggested qualification process (the super exam).


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If in doubt he should disclose it. It's highly unlikely it will make any difference. If the person he spoke to could not give the answer, then he should use his common sense and locate the person who can say. Even if backpedalling they will say disclose it. If you are a graduate and especially one with some legal education, then you should be able to read rules and find information.
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Ethereal
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This is literally the first time I have ever seen/read/heard someone defending the SRA. I thought it was a universally accepted truth that they are ****?
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LPCLondon
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(Original post by 999tigger)
If in doubt he should disclose it. It's highly unlikely it will make any difference. If the person he spoke to could not give the answer, then he should use his common sense and locate the person who can say. Even if backpedalling they will say disclose it. If you are a graduate and especially one with some legal education, then you should be able to read rules and find information.
Hey, thanks for taking the time to respond. I have definitely had a good look at the rules and although they are generally fairly clear, the main issue was that I don't actually know what is on my record, so it was difficult to know what to disclose it under, and they were not able to tell me.

When I spoke to the SRA team dedicated to this they were unable to tell me what a 'Local warning' even is, so it was difficult for me to decide which areas of the form to fill in.

Anyway, thanks all for your responses, especially JSP, daniel-leons and Lazyhare. I have spoken to my TC provider who were very good about it and am making my way through the disclosure. It definitely feels like doing the right thing at least.
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999tigger
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(Original post by Ethereal)
This is literally the first time I have ever seen/read/heard someone defending the SRA. I thought it was a universally accepted truth that they are ****?
I just talk as i find. No doubt had my experiences or that of others been highly rubbish, then I would reflect that. In any organisation there are normally a few people who know whats going on and I tend to look for them. If you meet an idiot get passed onto someone else or ring back at another time. I'm normally ok at getting the answer I need, sometimes you have to give up, but its the balance of knowing when you are making headway and when you need another strategy. Perhaps its just me or ive met the wrong people.
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999tigger
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(Original post by LPCLondon)
Hey, thanks for taking the time to respond. I have definitely had a good look at the rules and although they are generally fairly clear, the main issue was that I don't actually know what is on my record, so it was difficult to know what to disclose it under, and they were not able to tell me.

When I spoke to the SRA team dedicated to this they were unable to tell me what a 'Local warning' even is, so it was difficult for me to decide which areas of the form to fill in.

Anyway, thanks all for your responses, especially JSP, daniel-leons and Lazyhare. I have spoken to my TC provider who were very good about it and am making my way through the disclosure. It definitely feels like doing the right thing at least.
Talk to NACRO. Ive looked this up before, but NACRO can tell you what appears or not. The information is on the site about what information will appear. Im surprised the SRA team and the manager in charge of decisions could not give you a straight answer as to whether to disclose it, because I would have said disclose it if unsure or I would have referred ot to someone who can make that decision. If your TC probider knows then thats fine and its not going to matter anyway as its not serious enough by a long way.
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tblackwood
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Hey everyone, currently have an issue as well at the moment that if anyone has advice on I would realllly appreciate as I am incredibly stressed about it. I am a mature student (24) in the final year of my law degree about to undertake the LPC next September and I have been reading about the suitability test recently. Straight after high school I decided to resit a GCSE that I wasn't happy with at my local college so I was 16/17 at the time and I received a letter that part of my coursework was considered plagiarised. This was so long ago so I remember little about the events but it wasn't intentional I think it was just a referencing error. Anyway, after I gave my side of events they decided to let me carry on with the examination but removed that piece of coursework so I effectively scored a 0 on the coursework. I have since retaken this and passed it fine and never had any issues before or after this. I contacted the SRA recently by email to ask what I should do but I am unlikely to get a response much before January and it is really playing on my mind. Do people think this would be something that would have to be disclosed or is it mainly aimed at higher education e.g. A-levels/Degree? Any help or advice in advance would be massively appreciated!!
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tblackwood
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(Original post by J-SP)
Never heard of anything like this being disclosed. Not sure how they would even find out information like that.

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Yeah, it's a strange one, and like you previously stated, when I rang the SRA they weren't very helpful and asked me to send the pre admissions an email outlining the event. It seems as though admissions can be sorted via a tribunal but if you fail to disclose something then it's massively frowned upon and could be worse. I would completely understand if you cheated in a uni exam/ A-levels but I don't want to fail to disclose it in case it is relevant and they somehow find it. They must have a way to check with boards of examinations to see if you have ever been found to plagiarise?
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LazyHare
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As J-SP says, no idea how they would find out (very much doubt there is a central record, let alone one the SRA can access, or one they would be able to check), but see below from the SRA website on the suitability test. Sounds like if you disclose you should be fine given the definition of 'exceptional circumstances', but you may need to gather some evidence - can you speak to the exam board and/or teachers who would be able to give a statement corroborating that it was just a referencing error?
4: Assessment offences

4.1
Unless there are exceptional circumstances we will refuse your application if you have committed and/or have been adjudged by an education establishment to have committed a deliberate assessment offence which amounts to plagiarism or cheating to gain an advantage for yourself or others.
Guidance note
(i)
Exceptional circumstances may include where the finding does not amount to cheating or dishonesty, e.g. incorrect referencing, or failure to attribute correctly, in an essay or paper.
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tblackwood
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(Original post by J-SP)
I'm pretty sure if you did disclose it, they wouldn't do anything about it, especially given the time or level of the qualification.


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Yeah, I hope so. Common sense says it would never be an issue but if they wanted to be funny about it, it technically does fit within the meaning of 4.1 of Assessment Offences. But as it was 2008 or whenever it was, trying to get written statements from people would be near enough impossible and asking for references now to demonstrate the alternative would just be embarrassing! Definitely something I should have checked before enrolling on a law degree!
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Ethereal
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(Original post by tblackwood)
Hey everyone, currently have an issue as well at the moment that if anyone has advice on I would realllly appreciate as I am incredibly stressed about it. I am a mature student (24) in the final year of my law degree about to undertake the LPC next September and I have been reading about the suitability test recently. Straight after high school I decided to resit a GCSE that I wasn't happy with at my local college so I was 16/17 at the time and I received a letter that part of my coursework was considered plagiarised. This was so long ago so I remember little about the events but it wasn't intentional I think it was just a referencing error. Anyway, after I gave my side of events they decided to let me carry on with the examination but removed that piece of coursework so I effectively scored a 0 on the coursework. I have since retaken this and passed it fine and never had any issues before or after this. I contacted the SRA recently by email to ask what I should do but I am unlikely to get a response much before January and it is really playing on my mind. Do people think this would be something that would have to be disclosed or is it mainly aimed at higher education e.g. A-levels/Degree? Any help or advice in advance would be massively appreciated!!
It must be disclosed
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tblackwood
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(Original post by Ethereal)
It must be disclosed
Hey, thanks for the reply. I'm not questioning your answer but can I ask how you know? Are things from secondary school level definitely required to be disclosed? It does make sense but it just isn't very clear.
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