We only take enforcement action when we are satisfied that a barrister, or person we regulate, has broken the rules and their conduct is a risk to our regulatory objectives.
If our Contact and Assessment Team think that a concern reported to them indicates that the barrister may have broken the rules, it will refer the concern to our Investigations and Enforcement Team so that a formal investigation can be carried out. At the end of the investigation, we will consider whether enforcement action against the barrister is necessary in the public interest.
There are a number of ways we take can enforcement action. We can impose administrative sanctions for breaches of the rules. Administrative sanctions are not disciplinary sanctions and do not result in the barrister having a disciplinary record.
If the conduct is serious, we can take disciplinary action against the barrister for professional misconduct. Disciplinary action includes referring the barrister’s conduct to an independent Disciplinary Tribunal or to a panel of our Independent Decision-making Body to consider the conduct under our Determination by Consent procedure. The Tribunal or an Independent Decision-making Panel will decide whether the barrister has committed professional misconduct and, if so, what sanction is appropriate.
There are a range of disciplinary sanctions which can be imposed on barristers including reprimands, fines, suspensions, and in the most serious situations, they can be disbarred. However, just because a reported concern is passed to our Investigations and Enforcement team does not mean that enforcement action will be taken. Sometimes, after investigation, it is decided that the barrister did not break any rules or there is not enough evidence to prove that they have broken the rules, so no further action is taken.
We always use the same four stage process to ensure our enforcement decision-making process is fair. The four stages are:
- initial assessment;
- decision by staff or the Independent Decision-making Body (including the imposition of administration sanctions); and
- disciplinary action by a Disciplinary Tribunal or under our Determination by Consent procedure
You can read more about these four stages by visiting our sections on how we make enforcement decisions and what we do to consider reported concerns about barristers.