Mark Small, the solicitor who was at the centre of a furore in June over tweets from his law firm’s Twitter account that boasted of ‘a great win’ over parents of children with special educational needs, has agreed to be rebuked by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
Small, who runs Baker Small Legal Services, also agreed to the publication of the regulatory settlement agreement and to pay the costs of the SRA’s investigation in the sum of £600.
After the tweets were sent from the Baker Small Twitter account, a number of local authorities responded by saying they would stop giving work to the firm or would review their arrangements with it.
The regulatory settlement agreement reached with the SRA can be viewed here.
The regulator noted that the tweets posted on 11 June had been regarded by members of the public as unprofessional and offensive. “The publication of the tweets received extensive coverage in the media and generated a number of complaints to the firm and the SRA,” it said.
Small admitted that the content of the tweets was unprofessional and offensive “and as such he failed to behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in him and in the provision of legal services contrary to Principle 6 of the SRA Principles 2011”, the watchdog said, adding that it had accepted the admission.
The watchdog said it considered that the agreed outcome – a rebuke, publication of the outcome and payment of costs – was appropriate as the conditions in rule 3.1 of the SRA Disciplinary Rules 2011 were met, “because:
- the conduct was deliberate or reckless
- the agreed outcome is a proportionate outcome in the public interest
- the conduct was neither trivial nor justifiably inadvertent.”
The SRA added that in deciding that the agreed outcome was proportionate, it had taken into account the following mitigation which Small had put forward:
- prompt action was taken to delete the tweets and he quickly accepted responsibility for them;
- a written apology was posted within 24 hours of the publication of the offending tweets; and
- a donation was made to a charity.
The watchdog added that it was appropriate that the agreement was published in the interests of transparency in the regulatory and disciplinary process.
Small has meanwhile agreed that he will not act in any way which is inconsistent with the agreement such as, for example, by denying the admissions he has made.
The SRA said: “If Mr Small acts in a way which is inconsistent with this agreement, the conduct which is subject to this agreement may be subject to further consideration by the SRA. That may result in a disciplinary sanction or a referral to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal on the original facts and allegations. Acting in a way which is inconsistent with this agreement may also constitute a separate breach of Principles 2, 6 and 7 of the SRA Principles 2011.”
The £600 costs are due within 28 days of a statement of costs due being issued by the SRA.