OSS under fire over its race procedures

A SOLICITOR who won £10,000 compensation from her former firm for racial discrimination has complained to the Legal Services Ombudsman about the way the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors handled her case.

Jenny Lindsay won her racial discrimination case against East Midlands firm Ironsides Ray & Vials in November 1994. But her attempts to get the Solicitors Complaints Bureau (SCB) and its successor, the Office for the Supervision of Solicitors (OSS), to discipline the firm have come to nothing.

The firm dismissed Lindsay, a legal clerk, after she failed the Law Society finals, but it had given two white trainees grants to re-sit their exams and then allowed them to return to the firm.

When Lindsay first complained, the SCB decided to take no action.

She appealed and in July the OSS appeals committee ruled that Ironsides had breached the Race Relations Act. But it said it was not deliberate and resolved to take no further action.

Lindsay has written to Legal Services Ombudsman Anne Abraham to complain about the case. She believes the least the Law Society could do is monitor the firm's handling of discrimination issues. She objects that she had to prove beyond reasonable doubt first that the firm breached Practice Rule 1, and now that it did so deliberately.

“We are not talking about a criminal court, so there should not be a criminal standard of proof – it ought to be on the balance of probabilities,” she said.

An OSS spokeswoman would not comment on the case but said the Law Society was examining the possibility of changing the standard of proof for disciplinary proceedings.