23 Mar 2021

Barrister Robert Michael Kearney was ordered to be suspended from practice for six months by an independent disciplinary tribunal which concluded on 19 March 2021 following charges of professional misconduct brought by the Bar Standards Board (BSB).

The tribunal's decision comes after Mr Kearney, while in a position of trust, made highly inappropriate comments of a sexual nature to a mini pupil (someone on a short work experience placement) and stood too close to them.

The tribunal found that Mr Kearney had failed to act with integrity, had acted in a way that could reasonably be seen by the public to undermine his integrity, and had behaved in a way which was likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in him or in the profession.

Commenting on the order, a BSB spokesperson said: “There should be no place at the Bar for sexual harassment. Mr Kearney’s actions were unacceptable and constituted a breach of the BSB Handbook. The BSB recognises the difficulties for those who come forward with such concerns and bringing charges reflects the seriousness with which the BSB treats such conduct. The unacceptable nature of this conduct is reflected in the decision of the Tribunal.”

The tribunal’s decision is open to appeal.


Notes to editors

About Robert Michael Kearney

Robert Michael Kearney was called to the Bar of England and Wales by Inner Temple in November 1996.

About disciplinary tribunals

The appointment, operation, and decisions (including sentencing) of disciplinary tribunal panels are performed by the Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Service (BTAS). BTAS is run independently of the Bar Standards Board, the barristers' regulator. The BSB is responsible for bringing charges of professional misconduct against barristers, which BTAS tribunal panels then adjudicate. The sanctions imposed are a matter for the tribunal having regard to BTAS Sanctions Guidance which is endorsed by the Council of the Inns of Court.

Review of the BTAS Sanctions Guidance.

The BSB and BTAS are aware of current concern from the public and the profession about the level of sanctions imposed in cases of sexual misconduct. The Sanctions Guidance is currently under review, and there are plans to undertake a first public consultation over a period of six weeks beginning in April seeking views on proposals to amend the recommended ranges of sanctions for specific types of breaches. The full Sanctions Guidance will then be re-drafted and submitted for a further ten-week consultation which it is intended will begin in July. We expect the revised Guidance to come into force in November. For more information, please see our announcement of 23 February 2021.

About the Bar Standards Board

Our mission is to regulate barristers and specialised legal services businesses in England and Wales in the public interest. For more information about what we do visit: http://bit.ly/1gwui8t

Contact: For all media enquiries call: 0207 611 4691 or email press@barstandardsboard.org.uk.

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