The Lawyers’ Secular Society has welcomed the news that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has today (11 July 2014) withdrawn its endorsement of the Law Society’s recent practice note on “sharia succession rules”.
On 6 May 2014 the SRA issued ethics guidance on drafting and preparation of wills. The very final sentence of that guidance stated:
“If you are acting for clients for whom sharia succession rules may be relevant you will find the Law Society’s practice note on the subject helpful.”
The Law Society’s practice note, which remains in place, states:
“The male heirs in most cases receive double the amount inherited by a female heir of the same class”
“Non-Muslims may not inherit at all”
The SRA is the regulatory body for solicitors in England and Wales, whereas the Law Society is the representative body. The SRA’s endorsement of the Law Society’s practice note was particularly troubling given that the SRA is a public authority for the purposes of the Equality Act 2010 and is fully subject to the public sector equality duty.
The LSS was the first organisation to draw attention to the SRA’s endorsement of the Law Society’s practice note and sent an open letter to the SRA asking it to explain its actions here (PDF).
The SRA’s ethics guidance on drafting and preparation of wills has now been updated, with the final sentence that referred to the Law Society’s sharia practice note having been deleted.
The Law Society’s practice note on sharia succession rules unfortunately remains in place, and the LSS continues to challenge it.
Commenting, LSS Secretary Charlie Klendjian said:
“Clearly the SRA has seen the error of its ways and we welcome its decision to withdraw its endorsement of the Law Society’s practice note. This sends an important message to the public, to the legal profession and indeed to the rest of the world.
“Not only was the SRA’s decision to endorse the sharia practice note troubling, but so too was the method in which it did so. There was no accompanying press release and the endorsement came in the very final sentence of lengthy general guidance on the drafting and preparation of wills.
“Our attention now turns once again to the Law Society and we very much hope that the SRA’s decision will lead to a serious rethink of policy at Chancery Lane. It is confusing to the public and the legal profession for two closely-related and key institutions within our legal system to have such different views on a matter of such importance to human rights generally, and female equality more specifically.”
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