This section is for you if you are a barrister, or another person we regulate, and have been told that we are investigating a concern about you. It will explain what you need to do, where you can get help, and what you can do if you are unhappy about the outcome. We have written this information in plain English as a simple guide. If you would prefer to read the more detailed regulations that set out the procedure, you can do so in Part Five of the BSB Handbook.
If you have been told that someone has reported a concern about you, you might be worried or feel that it is completely unfounded. It is important for the reputation of the profession, however, that we have a rigorous and transparent system which gives everybody the chance to explain their side of the story. We always try to ensure that we deal with all concerns raised fairly, consistently, and quickly, for the benefit of everyone concerned.
We recognise that being subject to our enforcement processes can be stressful. The Wellbeing at the Bar portal provides access to a number of resources that may be helpful. The portal is supported by the Bar Council and is separate from the Bar Standards Board. Law Care also provide well-being support.
We will normally only look at concerns about the professional conduct of a barrister or other person we regulate. However, we will look at concerns related to actions you have taken in your non-professional life if the actions may affect the trust and confidence the public places in you or the profession.
We can consider reports from anybody who has a concern about your conduct such as your lay client or another barrister or a judge. Alternatively, the report may have been raised by us as a result of information we have been given that suggests you might have broken the rules set out in the BSB Handbook. This information might also have come from another barrister fulfilling their duty to report any serious misconduct.
For more detail about how we make enforcement decisions, and the process we use, see how we make enforcement decisions.If you need any help in responding to the concern because of a disability or impairment 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 to the person dealing with your case. Their name and email address will be on the letter you received about the investigation. We are here from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.
How you should respond
The most important thing is to make sure that you respond to any request for information or comments from us within three weeks. Not responding, or missing the deadline, is in itself a breach of the Handbook so you could face enforcement action for that. If you cannot respond within three weeks, contact the member of staff dealing with the concern about you and explain the problem (their name and contact details will be on the letter you received).
There is no set format for your response, but it is helpful to include:
- a chronological summary of the main facts and issues relating to the concern raised,
- your response to each aspect of the concern raised,
- the name and contact details of any witnesses who can help with the investigation, and
- any supporting documents that you think are relevant to the concern, such as opinions or copies of instructions.
It can be difficult to know how much detail to include in your response. You should aim to cover all of the issues we have said we are investigating. If you feel that other material may be helpful, but may not be directly relevant, you can list it in your response and we will ask you if we need it.
You must ensure that you do not breach any confidentiality or legal privilege in your response. Your response may be sent to the individual who raised the concern. If there is relevant information that you do not want that individual to see, provide it on a separate sheet and clearly mark at the top that it is "confidential and not for disclosure". You should explain why you think it should not be shown to the individual who raised the concern (for example, because they are on the other side in a case or you want to provide personal or medical information).
We make the final decision as to whether the information will be disclosed to the individual who raised the concern, but we will carefully consider your reasons for wanting to keep the information confidential. (If the concern was raised by one of your clients, our view is that they have waived their right to confidentiality to the extent that you can respond to the concerns they report). If you want to discuss the need to provide confidential documents as part of your response, please contact the member of our staff dealing with the concern about you.
The Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund (BMIF) may be able to assist you, under your insurance, in getting advice about how to respond to a concern raised about you, and may also be able to assist with obtaining representation at a disciplinary hearing if required. You can get more information from their website or phone them on 020 7621 0405.
If you are fined by the Independent Decision-making Body or Tribunal, you must pay the fine by the due date. If you do not, your failure to pay is likely to be treated as professional misconduct and may lead to further disciplinary proceedings against you.
Attending the tribunal
If the concern about you gets as far as a Disciplinary Tribunal it is very important that you either attend or send in written representations for the panel to consider. If you don't, the panel is unlikely to be able to fully assess your side of the story.
If you are unhappy about the outcome
Decisions made by the Independent Decision-making Body or staff following an investigation
You do not have the right to appeal a decision by the Independent Decision-making Body, or a member of our staff, to pass the case about you on to the Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Service to arrange a disciplinary hearing. However, we can look again at the decision if you have new evidence we have not seen before or for another good reason. This might be, for example, where staff or a panel of the Independent Decision-making Body made a mistake and did not look properly at existing evidence or parts of the concern or where case law was not taken properly into account. We cannot look again at the decision just because you disagree with it.
You do however have the right to appeal a decision by the Independent Decision-making Body to fine you or give you a formal warning under our administrative sanctions system. It costs £100 to request an appeal (this can generally be refunded if you are successful) and you must ask for it within 28 days of the date of the letter informing you of the fine/written warning.
If you appeal, the decision will be looked at first by a senior decision maker at the Bar Standards Board. If they decide there has been a clear error in the decision to impose the fine and/or warning they have the power to withdraw the sanction and dismiss the case. If they decide there is no obvious reason to overturn the sanction, the appeal will be passed to the Bar Tribunal and Adjudication Service who will arrange for a panel to consider your appeal. Appeals are normally carried out on the papers, although you can request an oral hearing.
Decisions made by a Disciplinary Tribunal
You can appeal the findings made by a Disciplinary Tribunal and/or the sentence imposed. Your appeal will be heard by the High Court. You must lodge an appeal within 21 days of the Tribunal's decision. As at October 2019, the fee is £528. A copy of the stamped appellant's notice must also be served within seven days. For further information on the appeals process see our guidance on appeals.
If you are unhappy with how we have dealt with the investigation
If you would like to make a complaint about the service our staff have provided during or after an investigation, see Complain about us for details of how to use our service complaints procedure.
Discussing the concern reported about you
If you would like to discuss the investigation of the concern reported about you, our investigation processes, or our disciplinary process, you can phone us on 020 7611 1444 and ask to speak to the Case Officer dealing with the concern about you. Their name will be on the letters you have received from us. Alternatively, phone our switchboard on 020 7611 1444 and ask to speak to the Investigations and Enforcement Team. We are here from 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday.