14 October 2019

Disbarments now the most common outcome at Disciplinary Tribunal hearings

24 July 2015

For the first time, disbarment was the most common sanction imposed by Tribunal panels with 13 barristers being disbarred in 2014-15, according to the BSB's Enforcement Annual Report published today.

Administrative sanctions (warnings and fines) were issued directly by the BSB for the first time in the last year under the new Handbook. This ensures Tribunal panels now only hear the most serious cases where the conduct poses the greatest risk to the public.

Embracing a more risk-based approach has been pivotal in achieving these outcomes and has also led to a more holistic regulatory approach in taking action to mitigate risks, according to the report.

In 2014-2015, the time taken for Disciplinary Tribunal cases to conclude has improved significantly compared to previous years. 

However, staff turnover within the small Assessment team of the Professional Conduct Department (PCD), led to delays in processing the cases in the early stages of the system.  As a result, the PCD managed to conclude or refer to disciplinary action in 69% of cases within service standards, compared to the target of 80%. 

The BSB Enforcement Annual Report published a number of key statistics about disciplinary actions of barristers from the period 1 April 2015 to 31 March 2015:

  • There were 297 external complaints.  These are complaints raised by members of the public, lay clients or other legal professionals.  This is a similar figure to previous years.
  • There were 144 internal complaints.  These are complaints about potential breaches the BSB becomes aware of itself.  This was a 33% increase from the previous year.
  • There were 70 new referrals to disciplinary action.
  • There were 13 disbarments and eight suspensions during 2014-15.
  • There were 12 cases that resulted in the imposition of non-disciplinary administrative sanctions.  These are warnings and fines imposed by the BSB.

Work to improve the enforcement pages of the BSB website is underway to ensure accessibility of information and transparency for both complainants and barristers.  This was an area of work also identified in the interim report of the BSB's Independent Observer, Isobel Leaviss.

Ms Leaviss was appointed in 2010 to provide independent assurance that the BSB's enforcement system is operating in line with its aims and objectives.

In her latest independent review on how complaints about barristers are handled by the BSB, Ms Leaviss was able to provide assurance, based on her observations, that she has "not identified any major systemic issues or any individual cases giving rise to serious concerns". 

Commenting on the Enforcement Annual Report, the BSB's Director of Professional Conduct Sara Jagger said: "The BSB Enforcement Annual Report shows we are making good progress with implementing a risk-based approach to regulation and enforcement action.  We are committed to continuing to improve the enforcement function, in line with the BSB's overall strategic aims and the recommendations made by the Independent Observer."

You can read the Bar Standards Board's Enforcement annual report 2014-2015 here.

You can read the full Independent Observer interim report here.

Previous reports can be found on our website.


Notes to editors

About the Independent Observer

The BSB's lay Independent Observer provides independent assurance that the BSB's enforcement system is operating in line with its aims and objectives. The Independent Observer does not act as an independent adjudicator and cannot respond to individual parties about complaints. For more information, please see: http://bit.ly/1Bs361u

About the Bar Standards Board

Our mission is to regulate the Bar so as to promote high standards of practice and safeguard clients and the public interest. For more information about what we do visit: http://bit.ly/1gwui8t

Contact: For all media enquiries call: 0207 611 1452 or email press@barstandardsboard.org.uk