21 October 2018

Public comment by the Bar Standards Board on complaints and disciplinary cases

The BSB must balance the public interest in being open and transparent against our duty to safeguard information and confidentiality. The BSB does not comment on individual cases that we may or may not be investigating in order to maintain that balance. 

The BSB generally does not comment on whether complaints have been received about individual barristers or whether complaints are ongoing. Section 5.A8 of the BSB Handbook requires us to respect the confidentially of those facing complaints and stipulates that we will not disclose: the fact that a complaint has been made; the details of a complaint; or information about its disposal, except in certain circumstances.

Some complaints will reach a point where it is appropriate that information is in the public domain. The BSB considers that the public should know when a barrister is facing disciplinary charges in front of a Disciplinary Tribunal. When a Disciplinary Tribunal panel has been formally convened to hear charges against a barrister, the details of the hearing and the charges are made public. They are posted on the website of the "Bar Tribunal and Adjudication Service" (BTAS) which is the independent body responsible for the administration and appointment of Disciplinary Tribunals. Please click here to access a list of forthcoming hearings, all of which are held in public. 

It is also important that people can find out if a finding of professional misconduct has been made in relation to a barrister or authorised body. Both BTAS and the BSB publish on their websites findings of professional misconduct by Disciplinary Tribunals. The BSB also publishes findings by the Professional Conduct Committee (PCC) under the Determination by Consent procedure (although BTAS do not publish these findings). Please visit our disciplinary tribunals webpages to access a list of recent disciplinary findings. Disciplinary findings against named barristers can be also be accessed via the Bar Register.

Where charges against a barrister or authorised body have been dismissed by a Disciplinary Tribunal or the PCC, the BSB does not consider there is a public interest in information about the charges remaining publically available. Therefore, we do not post dismissed charges on our website, nor does the BSB comment on charges that have been dismissed.

In exceptional circumstances, where there is good reason and it is in the public interest, the BSB has the discretion to reveal information about complaints which have not been referred to a Disciplinary Tribunal. We take this step rarely and there needs to be very good reason for us to do so.