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SRA Character & Suitability Test - Any outcomes that can be shared? Watch

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    Hi All

    I have a spent criminal conviction of ABH for which I received a 12 suspended sentence. I also received a police caution when I was under 16 to a similar effect. Without going into too much detail, much of this was a result of a turbulent childhood and upbringing as a whole to which is very much in my past.

    The above aside, I am looking for anyone that would be happy to discuss their application outcomes from the SRA in this respect? I have of course read the very vague guidelines on their website and had the vague response of 'each case is assessed individually' from the SRA when I spoke to them. I do appreciate each case will be assessed on its own merits.

    Anyone who is willing to share their experience/outcome (whether good or bad) would be hugely appreciated.

    Many thanks in advance,

    K
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    (Original post by KLB123)
    Hi All

    I have a spent criminal conviction of ABH for which I received a 12 suspended sentence. I also received a police caution when I was under 16 to a similar effect. Without going into too much detail, much of this was a result of a turbulent childhood and upbringing as a whole to which is very much in my past.

    The above aside, I am looking for anyone that would be happy to discuss their application outcomes from the SRA in this respect? I have of course read the very vague guidelines on their website and had the vague response of 'each case is assessed individually' from the SRA when I spoke to them. I do appreciate each case will be assessed on its own merits.

    Anyone who is willing to share their experience/outcome (whether good or bad) would be hugely appreciated.

    Many thanks in advance,

    K
    Your references and ability to show rehabilitation will play a major part in any decision.

    It does depend on how long ago the conviction was though. The fact there are two instances isn't going to help, if it was a one of this might have been a lot easier. But if they were both some considerable time ago and you can present clear rehabilitation since then you may have a stronger case, espeically if both instances you were technically a child.

    Getting as much supportive evidence of your rehabilitation and character now from reputable referees/sources will put you in the best position. It is impossible to say how the SRA will rule though as it really is down the detail of your convictions/cautions (e.g. if your ABH has any hintof discrimination attached to it, it becomes much more tricky).

    The suspended sentence tends to be a killer though, and the fact there is violence involved too is a major issue. I have helped with suitability tests before, but can't recollect someone having a suspended sentence of this nature so can't really give any clear insight - I suspect there are people out there that have them though and that the SRA have approved. Whether you find them on here is another matter though.
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    (Original post by J-SP)
    Your references and ability to show rehabilitation will play a major part in any decision.

    It does depend on how long ago the conviction was though. The fact there are two instances isn't going to help, if it was a one of this might have been a lot easier. But if they were both some considerable time ago and you can present clear rehabilitation since then you may have a stronger case, espeically if both instances you were technically a child.

    Getting as much supportive evidence of your rehabilitation and character now from reputable referees/sources will put you in the best position. It is impossible to say how the SRA will rule though as it really is down the detail of your convictions/cautions (e.g. if your ABH has any form of discrimination attached to it, it becomes much more tricky).

    The suspended sentence tends to be a killer though. I have helped with suitability tests before, but can't recollect someone having a suspended sentence - I suspect there are people out there that have them though and that the SRA have approved.
    Thank you JS-P, I gathered as much. The caution was when I was 15 years old so now 10 years ago. The ABH conviction was in 2012 however was deemed to be spent last year when DBS Scotland contacted me.

    I have 4 years worth of legal practice experience under my belt from being a paralegal through to being a fee earner within Real Estate prior to me enrolling on my LLB. My conviction was declared to all of my legal employers who still employed me after declaring the same.

    It would appear however, that when working in legal practice as a non-qualified person very much differs from someone who is looking to hold a qualified role.

    I am getting involved with probono work and giving my studies 110%. I am hoping a detailed overview of my turbulent childhood along with strong supporting references will help the SRA recognise my 'rehabilitation'.

    I am still interested to hear from people on this post with regards to their dealings in this respect and what response they received.

    All the best,

    K
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    (Original post by KLB123)
    Thank you JS-P, I gathered as much. The caution was when I was 15 years old so now 10 years ago. The ABH conviction was in 2012 however was deemed to be spent last year when DBS Scotland contacted me.

    I have 4 years worth of legal practice experience under my belt from being a paralegal through to being a fee earner within Real Estate prior to me enrolling on my LLB. My conviction was declared to all of my legal employers who still employed me after declaring the same.

    It would appear however, that when working in legal practice as a non-qualified person very much differs from someone who is looking to hold a qualified role.

    I am getting involved with probono work and giving my studies 110%. I am hoping a detailed overview of my turbulent childhood along with strong supporting references will help the SRA recognise my 'rehabilitation'.

    I am still interested to hear from people on this post with regards to their dealings in this respect and what response they received.

    All the best,

    K
    References from your employers will be vital then. You have a major advantage that you have been deemed to be of a suitable character by law firms and have already been given significant responsibility. Most people I know who have gone through this process won't have had that type of evidence on their side.

    Where your ABH conviction is actually fairly recent and as an adult, I think it will be incredibly difficult though, but I have known decisions to be influenced by the minute detail of how the crime/offence was recorded by the police at the time. Its why you have to take the "case by case" basis literally.
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    (Original post by J-SP)
    References from your employers will be vital then. You have a major advantage that you have been deemed to be of a suitable character by law firms and have already been given significant responsibility. Most people I know who have gone through this process won't have had that type of evidence on their side.

    Where your ABH conviction is actually fairly recent and as an adult, I think it will be incredibly difficult though, but I have known decisions to be influenced by the minute detail of how the crime/offence was recorded by the police at the time. Its why you have to take the "case by case" basis literally.
    The issue I am facing when approaching previous employers (especially the most recent which is a well known city firm) is that they are reluctant to provide me with anything more than the date reference as such. It would appear that due the nature of what the reference is for it is unnerving them.

    I am hoping that my academic tutor references (who are mostly ex-practicing legal professionals) will carry enough weight if I cannot get a character reference from all of my previous employers.

    Could you explain the 'minute detail of how the crime/offence was recorded by the police' element of your reply in greater depth? I would like to understand how this has impacted previous applications you have assisted with.
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    (Original post by KLB123)
    The issue I am facing when approaching previous employers (especially the most recent which is a well known city firm) is that they are reluctant to provide me with anything more than the date reference as such. It would appear that due the nature of what the reference is for it is unnerving them.

    I am hoping that my academic tutor references (who are mostly ex-practicing legal professionals) will carry enough weight if I cannot get a character reference from all of my previous employers.

    Could you explain the 'minute detail of how the crime/offence was recorded by the police' element of your reply in greater depth? I would like to understand how this has impacted previous applications you have assisted with.
    Every little detail of your caution and conviction could be scruntised. This could include looking at any police records of how the incident(s) were recorded. If for instance any details suggested that you were aggressive/abusive towards any of the officers that arrested you/dealt with your conviction, this is going to look far less favourably than if you complied. If the same details suggested that you lied to the police and there was evidence to prove this, this again would be looked upon far less favourably than if you hadn't. Even factors like who the victim of your crime could be taken into consideration.
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    (Original post by J-SP)
    Every little detail of your caution and conviction could be scruntised. This could include looking at any police records of how the incident(s) were recorded. If for instance any details suggested that you were aggressive/abusive towards any of the officers that arrested you/dealt with your conviction, this is going to look far less favourably than if you complied. If the same details suggested that you lied to the police and there was evidence to prove this, this again would be looked upon far less favourably than if you hadn't. Even factors like who the victim of your crime could be taken into consideration.
    That does make a lot of sense.

    In brief, the conviction came from a scuffle outside a nightclub and the conviction was ABH as opposed to a battery purely down to the injuries sustained by the victim i.e. bruising.

    I did not resist arrest and was not abusive to any of the arresting officers. I complied within the interview and pled guilty at the Magistrates Court. The fight I was involved in was not motivated in anyway other than me being under the influence of alcohol and unfortunately (in a sense) I was the one who did not come away from it injured.

    I also relocated to live with other family members well before I was convicted to remove myself from the area and people I was with.

    Can I ask as a separate question, is assisting with such application something you for a living? I ask as I would obviously look to use such a service/assistance.
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    (Original post by KLB123)
    That does make a lot of sense.

    In brief, the conviction came from a scuffle outside a nightclub and the conviction was ABH as opposed to a battery purely down to the injuries sustained by the victim i.e. bruising.

    I did not resist arrest and was not abusive to any of the arresting officers. I complied within the interview and pled guilty at the Magistrates Court. The fight I was involved in was not motivated in anyway other than me being under the influence of alcohol and unfortunately (in a sense) I was the one who did not come away from it injured.

    I also relocated to live with other family members well before I was convicted to remove myself from the area and people I was with.

    Can I ask as a separate question, is assisting with such application something you for a living? I ask as I would obviously look to use such a service/assistance.
    No I don't help with the applications. I just used to be involved/aware of the process as part of the on-boarding processes for trainees at the firms I worked at.
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    I thought the guidelines were pretty fair and reasonable. I don think they are vague. They have to deal with all sorts of cases so its nice they investigate and consider each case individually and look at the merits. Just argue your own case, stress the good points as JSP said rehabilitation etc and get as much credible supporting evidence to support this and your overall suitability to join the profession.

    At least it was ABH not GBH and wasnt dishonesty or sexual. You can only do your best. Have you checked with the SRA whether hearings of previous applications are made public? I also wouldnt underestimate the importance of how you come across, so make sure you get the balance correct.
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    (Original post by 999tigger)
    I thought the guidelines were pretty fair and reasonable. I don think they are vague. They have to deal with all sorts of cases so its nice they investigate and consider each case individually and look at the merits. Just argue your own case, stress the good points as JSP said rehabilitation etc and get as much credible supporting evidence to support this and your overall suitability to join the profession.

    At least it was ABH not GBH and wasnt dishonesty or sexual. You can only do your best. Have you checked with the SRA whether hearings of previous applications are made public? I also wouldnt underestimate the importance of how you come across, so make sure you get the balance correct.
    I get I am being slightly defeatist in a sense of thinking they say they will consider each case but generally speaking just take one look at 'ABH' and say no and thank you for your £100 fee.

    Have you had any experience with applications of this nature yourself?
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    (Original post by KLB123)
    I get I am being slightly defeatist in a sense of thinking they say they will consider each case but generally speaking just take one look at 'ABH' and say no and thank you for your £100 fee.

    Have you had any experience with applications of this nature yourself?
    Fortunately not.

    I dont get your attitude though? Where will being defeatist get you? You are saying you want to be a lawyer, so start representing yourself and assembling the best case possible (theres plenty of scope). If you cant stick up for yourself then how do you expect to do it for clients?

    If you do your best then it will either be a yay or a nay, just deal with it whatever happens. You owe it to yourself to do your best, especially if its what you want.
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    (Original post by KLB123)
    I get I am being slightly defeatist in a sense of thinking they say they will consider each case but generally speaking just take one look at 'ABH' and say no and thank you for your £100 fee.

    Have you had any experience with applications of this nature yourself?
    They definitely won't do that.
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    (Original post by 999tigger)
    I thought the guidelines were pretty fair and reasonable. I don think they are vague. They have to deal with all sorts of cases so its nice they investigate and consider each case individually and look at the merits. Just argue your own case, stress the good points as JSP said rehabilitation etc and get as much credible supporting evidence to support this and your overall suitability to join the profession.

    At least it was ABH not GBH and wasnt dishonesty or sexual. You can only do your best. Have you checked with the SRA whether hearings of previous applications are made public? I also wouldnt underestimate the importance of how you come across, so make sure you get the balance correct.
    If there aren't public records, you might want to see if you can put a FOI request through to the SRA to see if they can provide some general stats on these type of things - not sure if it would work, but might be worth a try.
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    It's been an awfully long Monday at work, so excuse the brain dump! I have recently been through the SRA's character and suitability assessment process, albeit for a different type of offence, and my thoughts (in no particular order) are:
    • What was the caution for? A caution for a 'minor' offence would not be a significant hurdle to overcome if it was not committed for personal gain and if you are able to demonstrate rehabilitation through a clean record in the subsequent 10 years. See Mulla v SRA case law here: http://www.ardl.org.uk/wp-content/up...10-Edition.pdf
    • Unless your caution was the result of exceptional circumstances, I would seek to advance mitigating circumstances to explain the surrounding events rather than attempt to absolve yourself of any responsibility
    • The ABH conviction in 2012 presents two hurdles you will need to overcome. First, and this is why the caution is important, the SRA could view this as evidence that you are likely to re-offend and bring the profession into disrepute. Second, the sentence handed down suggests this was viewed as serious by the CPS and court
    • Character references must come from a person, not an entity such as a law firm. Do you have any contacts within the industry who would be comfortable writing a glowing reference for you? I was able to draw on several contacts, all of whom are very senior in their respective industries, to support my application with character references

    Mind is now drawing blanks so I'll stop here but happy to help if you need further assistance.
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    (Original post by adz86)
    It's been an awfully long Monday at work, so excuse the brain dump! I have recently been through the SRA's character and suitability assessment process, albeit for a different type of offence, and my thoughts (in no particular order) are:
    • What was the caution for? A caution for a 'minor' offence would not be a significant hurdle to overcome if it was not committed for personal gain and if you are able to demonstrate rehabilitation through a clean record in the subsequent 10 years. See Mulla v SRA case law here: http://www.ardl.org.uk/wp-content/up...10-Edition.pdf
    • Unless your caution was the result of exceptional circumstances, I would seek to advance mitigating circumstances to explain the surrounding events rather than attempt to absolve yourself of any responsibility
    • The ABH conviction in 2012 presents two hurdles you will need to overcome. First, and this is why the caution is important, the SRA could view this as evidence that you are likely to re-offend and bring the profession into disrepute. Second, the sentence handed down suggests this was viewed as serious by the CPS and court
    • Character references must come from a person, not an entity such as a law firm. Do you have any contacts within the industry who would be comfortable writing a glowing reference for you? I was able to draw on several contacts, all of whom are very senior in their respective industries, to support my application with character references

    Mind is now drawing blanks so I'll stop here but happy to help if you need further assistance.
    Thank you for your reply, I really appreciate it.

    1. Unfortunately the caution was for Assault and I believe I was 14 years old at the time (just before my 15th birthday)

    2. On the basis of point 1 above, I would therefore not be able to show a clean record since then with my ABH conviction in 2012. I fully appreciate it looks like I could re-offend again by looking at these 2 facts.

    3. The sentence handed down was fair and from what I understand, my local home town has an issue with late night revellers getting into drunken fights hence my Solicitor advised the judge coming down tough. But as I say, I committed the offence and I took the punishment.

    4. I do have friends who are practicing solicitors who I could reach out to. My question is, can they give me a reference as a professional individual as opposed to on company letter head? The reason I ask is because past experience in my time in practice tells me that can be a sticking point.

    Can I ask how recent your offence was and the outcome of your application? I don't mean to pry I just wish to understand your experience.
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    (Original post by KLB123)
    Thank you for your reply, I really appreciate it.

    1. Unfortunately the caution was for Assault and I believe I was 14 years old at the time (just before my 15th birthday)

    2. On the basis of point 1 above, I would therefore not be able to show a clean record since then with my ABH conviction in 2012. I fully appreciate it looks like I could re-offend again by looking at these 2 facts.

    3. The sentence handed down was fair and from what I understand, my local home town has an issue with late night revellers getting into drunken fights hence my Solicitor advised the judge coming down tough. But as I say, I committed the offence and I took the punishment.

    4. I do have friends who are practicing solicitors who I could reach out to. My question is, can they give me a reference as a professional individual as opposed to on company letter head? The reason I ask is because past experience in my time in practice tells me that can be a sticking point.

    Can I ask how recent your offence was and the outcome of your application? I don't mean to pry I just wish to understand your experience.
    Point 4) You will really need a professional you worked with to vouch for you - someone who hasn't got a natural bias like a friend. This is an advantage/positive you have - utilise it. Getting various reputable referees lined up is important. I'd recommend at least one professional, one academic and one personal. The personal one would be best to come from someone who can comment on who you were as a person 10 and 5 years ago, as well as now.
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    (Original post by J-SP)
    Point 4) You will really need a professional you worked with to vouch for you - someone who hasn't got a natural bias like a friend. This is an advantage/positive you have - utilise it. Getting various reputable referees lined up is important. I'd recommend at least one professional, one academic and one personal. The personal one would be best to come from someone who can comment on who you were as a person 10 and 5 years ago, as well as now.
    Point 4 - The person i'm thinking of is 10 years PQE and I got on well with at my last firm. I just wanted to know if they had to provide it on letter head paper or whether they could provide a reference but obviously refer to the fact they are a practicing lawyer and we worked alongside one another?

    Would I be right in thinking the more references the better?
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    (Original post by KLB123)
    Point 4 - The person i'm thinking of is 10 years PQE and I got on well with at my last firm. I just wanted to know if they had to provide it on letter head paper or whether they could provide a reference but obviously refer to the fact they are a practicing lawyer and we worked alongside one another?

    Would I be right in thinking the more references the better?
    I doubt the firm will allow the individual to provide it on headed paper. It won't matter from the SRA's perspective, they will just want to see that it comes from a reputable individual.

    It was different for the applications I was involved in as the firm were wanting to recruit the individual as a trainee, and so provided supportive evidence on headed paper as they would be impacted by the SRA's decision.

    No quality over quantity is definitely the better option for this process.
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    (Original post by J-SP)
    I doubt the firm will allow the individual to provide it on headed paper. It won't matter from the SRA's perspective, they will just want to see that it comes from a reputable individual.

    It was different for the applications I was involved in as the firm were wanting to recruit the individual as a trainee, and so provided supportive evidence on headed paper as they would be impacted by the SRA's decision.

    No quality over quantity is definitely the better option for this process.
    So the individual in the example you are referring to was already at the firm and were looking to hire the individual as a trainee?
 
 
 
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