We always use the same four stage process to ensure that we deal
with all complaints fairly and efficiently.
When we receive a complaint, we carry out an initial assessment
to see if
We will usually tell you the outcome of our initial assessment
within eight weeks.
If we decide that we should carry out a formal investigation, we
will also send you a summary of the issues we will be investigating
and give you the opportunity to comment on it (we normally ask for
your comments within seven days).
If we decide that we should not carry out a
formal investigation, we will write to you explaining our reasons
for this decision. We will also tell you if we have decided to take
another course of action. For example, we refer some complaints to
the barrister's chambers, or other person we regulate's place of
work, others we might refer to our supervision team who can work
with the chambers or place of work in question to ensure the
problem doesn't happen again, or we might send an informal letter
to the barrister, or other person we regulate, reminding them of
the expected standards of behaviour.
We will carry out a formal investigation of your
complaint. We will write to the barrister, or other person we
regulate, and any other people who can provide information on
your complaint, asking for their comments and any relevant
documents they can provide. We will keep you informed of progress
and send you the response from the barrister, or other person we
regulate, and others if we think that you could provide more
This step usually takes about six months from the
date we received your complaint, 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
before completing our investigation.
Once we have all the information we need, we look
at whether this is something our staff have the power to assess and
make a decision ourselves or we pass it on to the Professional
Conduct Committee (which is made up of barristers and
non-barristers). Where we have passed a case on to the Professional
Conduct Committee, they assess whether there is enough evidence to
show that the barrister, or other person we regulate, has not
followed the rules and decide what action to take. If there is
enough evidence, the Professional Conduct Committee will decide
what action to take. This might be a written warning or a fine of
up to £1,000, or, for more serious complaints, passing the matter
on to a disciplinary tribunal. It usually takes a few months to
arrange the tribunal hearing.
Whether the decision is made by staff or the
Professional Conduct Committee, at this stage the complaint could
be dismissed or withdrawn, or the barrister, or other person we
regulate, might be given a written warning or a fine of up to
£1,000. Or, if the issue is more serious, we will either pass it on
to a disciplinary tribunal or for determination by consent
If the barrister, or other person we
regulate, agrees that they have not followed the rules, the
Professional Conduct Committee can make a decision to:
We call this "determination by consent".
If they do not agree that they have broken
the rules, or if the matter is serious, we pass it on to a
disciplinary tribunal. It usually takes a few months to arrange the
The disciplinary tribunal hearings are arranged
by an independent organisation called the Bar Tribunals and
Adjudication Service(BTAS). At the hearing we try to prove the
charges against them. We don't act on your behalf, but as the
regulator of the profession. We make all the decisions about
what charges to bring against them, and what evidence to present.
At the tribunal they have the opportunity to present evidence
in their defence.
You may need to appear as a witness if it does
go to a disciplinary tribunal. If so, we will provide you with
information about what will happen, and what will be expected of
you. We will also pay your reasonable expenses to help you get to
the hearing and give you the opportunity to visit the place where
the tribunal will be heard in advance if you are feeling
The tribunal will make the final decision on
whether they have broken the rules and what action should be taken.
They may decide to give them a fine of up to £50,000, suspend them
for a period of up to three years, or remove their ability to
practise as a barrister, or other person we
regulate, permanently (this is called "disbarring" or
"disqualification"). We will tell you the tribunal's decision.
Disciplinary tribunals usually take place within
12 months of us receiving your complaint, but it can take
The information in these pages applies
to barristers, and other people we regulate, in England and
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.