'No person responsible for £13m SIF shortfall'

Heads will not roll following the £13m shortfall in the Solicitors Indemnity Fund because no single person can be identified as responsible, Law Society president Tony Girling has said.

The SIF board met last week to hear a report on the error, which stated that the team responsible for making the projections for contributions for 1996/97 used the 1995/96 database assuming that it had been updated. In fact it had not been.

A statement issued by the board said that “the error arose out of a failure of communication between a small number of personnel within the SIF. The board has made it quite clear to all staff at SIF that such mistakes are unacceptable.”

For the future, the board has told staff that any proposed changes to the fund will have to be considered by all five SIF managers before they go to the Law Society Council.

Girling told The Lawyer that he was satisfied that the cause of the error had been identified and that steps had been taken to prevent any repetition.

He said that if John Speedman, the SIF managing director at the time had still been in his post, he would expect him to “seriously consider his position” but since Speedman had retired and the new managing director Elizabeth Mullins had nothing to do with the error, there would be no resignations.

“I understand the error involved a failure of communication between six people. There is no one person we can identify who can take responsibility,” he said.

Former president Martin Mears, who has called for an independent investigation of SIF's operation and its management, said: “It's not enough for SIF to just address this one error. There were two similar errors within the space of a few months.

“That must raise the question of the management's competence. There should be an external investigation.”