28 March 2017

Frequently asked questions

If you cannot find the information about our complaints process that you are looking for email us at: assessmentcomplaints@barstandardsboard.org.uk

We will reply to your email and may publish the anonymised question and answer here.

1. Is there someone I can speak to about making a complaint?

Yes, our Professional Conduct Department Information Line are always happy to speak to complainants or potential complainants about our process.

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

 2. Can I get help with making my complaint?

We can give you advice on how to complete the Complaint Form or information on how we assess complaints, but we cannot give you advice on what complaints you should make.

You can ask someone else to make a complaint for you, such as your solicitor, your local Citizens Advice Bureau, or a friend or relative. Be aware that solicitors will usually charge you for this.

We will still require your signature on the form to show that you have given permission to someone else to make the complaint for you.

3.     I need assistance in making a complaint, how can you help me?

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. If you are disabled, please get in touch with us straight away to tell us how we can best help you.

You can phone our switchboard on 020 7611 1444 and ask to speak 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

4.     Will making a complaint to you help with my court case?

No. The only reason to make a complaint to us is if you have a genuine complaint. It will not help you in your court case in any way.  We are unable to:

  • get involved in your court case;
  • stop a barrister, or other person we regulate, from acting for the other side in a case;
  • prevent a barrister, or other person we regulate, presenting evidence to a court or acting in a way you disagree with;
  • get a barrister, or other person we regulate, to disclose confidential or privileged information; or,
  • order that you should have another trial.

5.     Can you grant me compensation?

No. We have no powers to order compensation. The Legal Ombudsman can order legal professionals to pay compensation but only for poor service provided by them to their own clients.

6.     Is there a time limit for making a complaint?

Complaints should normally be made to us within 12 months of the problem happening. However, if you have ample evidence and it is a serious issue we can look at complaints made outside this time limit. If you are in this situation, get in touch with the Professional Conduct Department Information Line.

7.     How long will it take for my complaint to be processed?

We try to deal with all complaints promptly and efficiently. If we decide that there isn't enough evidence or that what happened isn't serious enough for us to investigate your complaint further, we will usually tell you within eight weeks and tell you if we have taken any action.

If we decide to formally investigate your complaint, then it usually takes about six months, although it can take longer if the issues are complicated or we need to wait for the outcome of court proceedings or an investigation by the Legal Services Ombudsman.

If at the end of our investigations we decide to refer your complaint to a disciplinary tribunal, it will take several more months for a decision to be made because a formal hearing will need to be arranged. Tribunal hearings usually take place within 12 months of us receiving your complaint, but it can take longer.

8. The barrister for the other side twisted all the facts and made it look like I didn't have a case. Why have you decided not to investigate my complaint further?

We always look at complaints thoroughly, but it doesn't sound like the barrister did anything wrong. It is a feature of the legal system in England and Wales that each side is arguing that they are right and the other is wrong (this is often called the "adversarial" system). So it's a barrister's job to present the facts in a way that helps their client, and harms the argument of the other side. If you are not used to our legal system this can seem like they are misleading the court, or bullying the witness, but they aren't.

9.     Why have you adjourned the consideration of my complaint?

Sometimes we need to stop considering a complaint while we wait for something to happen. This might be because there are very similar complaints already being investigated and the outcome of those may change how we should treat your complaint. Alternatively it may be that we need to wait for a court case to be finished first, or if the Legal Ombudsman is also looking at aspects of your complaint, we may need to wait for them to complete their investigation before we can finish ours. We will always restart our consideration as soon as we can.

10. What if I don't agree with how you are representing my complaint to the Disciplinary Tribunal?

If we take the barrister, or other person we regulate, that you have complained about to a disciplinary tribunal, we do that as the regulator of the profession, rather than on your behalf. All the decisions about what charges to bring against them and what evidence to present to the Tribunal are made by us, and you do not have a right to object if you disagree. You will, however, be given an opportunity to comment on the charges and the evidence before the hearing.

The Disciplinary Tribunal will decide whether they have broken the rules and, if so, what sentence to impose. It may be that you are not entirely satisfied with the Tribunal's decisions, but you do not have a right to appeal the decision or the sentence imposed.

11. What if I'm unhappy about the way you have handled my complaint?

If you would like to make a complaint about how we have handled your complaint, or about any action by our staff, you should use our complaints procedure. This is separate to the procedure for making complaints about a barrister, or other person we regulate.

You can make a complaint about any aspect of our service. See Complaints about our staff for details of how to use our complaints procedure.

Please note, if your complaint is about a decision we have made about the conduct of a barrister, or other person we regulate, we will not normally treat it as a complaint about our service. Instead, if appropriate, we will treat your complaint as a request to review the decision made about the barrister's, or other person we regulate's, conduct.

 

 

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.