28 March 2017

Complaining about a barrister or other person we regulate who was not representing you

If your complaint is about a barrister, or other person we regulate, who was not representing you, you are in the right place. You can make your complaint to us and we will assess if they have broken the rules.

It is our job to ensure that they behave in a professional way. As part of this, we publish a handbook with rules that they must follow. If they break those rules and we think the issue is serious enough, we can take action to prevent them from breaking the rules again. This might range from supervising their practice more closely, sending them a letter of advice, to fining them, preventing them from working as a barrister, or other person we regulate, for up to three years, or removing their ability to act as a barrister, or other person we regulate. We don't have the power to order that they pay compensation to you or anybody else.

Tell us what happened by filling in our  Complaints Form.

Please also complete our  Equality and Diversity Monitoring Form. This helps us to see how our policies and services affect people from different backgrounds.

Send both forms back to us:

•  by email at: assessmentcomplaints@barstandardsboard.org.uk,

•  by post to: Assessment Team, Professional Conduct Department, Bar Standards Board, 289-293 High Holborn, London WC1V 7HZ,

•  by DX to: Assessment Team, Professional Conduct Department, Bar Standards Board, DX 240 LDE, or

•  by fax to: 020 7831 9217 addressing it to the Assessment Team, Professional Conduct Department, Bar Standards Board.

If you would like to talk to someone about making your complaint, you can phone our switchboard on 020 7611 1444 and ask to speak to the Professional Conduct Department Information Line. We are here from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.

Alternatively you can email us at assessmentcomplaints@barstandardsboard.org.uk

 

Tips for completing the Complaint Form

  • Use the form to tell us about the behaviour you are complaining about in your own words. Avoid using legal or formal language, the most important thing is to be as clear as possible so that we don't miss anything.
  • Try not to use inflammatory or aggressive language. Just tell us the facts.
  • You don't need to tell us which rules in the Handbook were broken. We will look at that when we receive your complaint.
  • Include as much evidence as possible. For example, do you have letters, emails, court papers, or a court transcript that support your complaint?  If so, attach them to the form or tell us when you will send them to us. Are there witnesses who could support your complaint? Would they be willing to provide a letter confirming what they saw or heard? If so, include their letter with your complaint form or say when you will send it. Also include their names, how they are connected to the incident, and their contact details. If there is a court transcript that exists that would help your complaint, we don't recommend that you buy it because they are so expensive.
  • Try to make sure you complain to us within 12 months of the incident.

   

We look into complaints about barristers, or other people we regulate, who may have:

  • acted dishonestly - for example, lied about qualifications.
  • caused the court to believe something that wasn't true or called witnesses to give evidence knowing that they would say something that wasn't true.
  • not told the court something important which may have harmed their client's case.
  • taken on work which they are not properly qualified and insured to do.
  • broken client confidentiality (that is where the barrister revealed information about their client without their client's agreement or a clear legal reason) or another serious breach of confidentiality.
  • made unnecessary or uncalled for accusations against others in the course of their work.
  • committed a criminal offence (other than a very minor one such as a parking offence).
  • been bullying or aggressive.
  • not taken care to avoid causing unnecessary distress to a vulnerable person.
  • been drunk or under the influence of drugs in court.
  • used the fact that they are a barrister to threaten somebody or gain some advantage.
  • discriminated unlawfully against someone because of their race, colour, ethnic or national origin, nationality, citizenship, sex, gender re-assignment, sexual orientation, marital or civil partnership status, disability, age, religion or belief, or pregnancy and maternity.

"I complained about a barrister who I overheard talking to his client about me and the group I represented in offensive terms. It wasn't just my word against theirs as there were other people who had overheard. The Bar Standards Board investigated and sent the barrister a written warning about their behaviour."

"I felt my ex-partner's barrister twisted all the facts and mislead the court by making it look like I didn't have a case, so I made a complaint. But it didn't get very far. When I was told of the panel's decision I was really disappointed but they explained that it didn't sound like my ex's barrister had actually done anything wrong. They explained that that is how our legal system works, each side is arguing that they are right and the other is wrong. So it was the barrister's job to present the facts in a way that helped their client, and made my argument look less strong. "

We don't normally investigate complaints about:

  • judgement on the law, facts of the case, or how a case should have been presented to a court.
  • people who haven't paid their debts. If they have not obeyed a court order, we may be able to investigate why not, but we will need to know what steps you have already taken to enforce the court order. We have no powers to make them pay you or obey the order.
  • what a person has done in their private life (unless they have used the fact that they are a barrister, or other person we regulate, to intimidate or threaten someone, in which case we might tell them not to do it again). If you think that they have committed a criminal offence, you should report the matter to the police.
  • what a person has done while acting as judge, recorder or tribunal chair. These complaints should be made to the Office for Judicial Complaints.

"I wanted to use the BSB complaints system to complain about the barrister who is my landlord. He is a dishonest landlord and is always promising me that things will be fixed and then they aren't. But my complaint was dismissed straight away because it was part of his private life and he hadn't tried to use the fact that he was barrister to intimidate me. Then I found out about the Housing Ombudsman service, so I'm using that now."

Need any assistance?

 

If you need any help in making your complaint because of a disability or impairment please get in touch with us straight away using the contact details above to tell us how we can best help you.

We are committed to ensuring that nobody is disadvantaged in making a complaint because of a disability or impairment. We can, for example, provide our literature in different formats such as Braille, large print or on CD. We can also give you additional time to respond to our enquiries. If making your complaint in writing is difficult for you, we can take the details of your complaint over the telephone.

 

Disclaimer

The information in these pages applies to barristers, and other people we regulate, in England and Wales.

The law that regulates barristers and lawyers is complicated. We have simplified things to give you an idea of how it applies to your situation. Please don't rely on these pages as a complete statement of the law.

The quotes and cases we refer to are not always real but show a typical situation. We hope they help you to understand the system better and think about what might happen to the complaint.