27 Nov 2020

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today published its first annual Regulatory Decisions Report. It covers the year ending on 31 March 2020.

The report provides an overview of the wide range of decisions taken by the BSB in relation to its regulatory operations, and legal and enforcement work from April 2019 to March 2020. This include areas such as investigations and disciplinary action, the supervision of chambers, and the authorisation of education and training providers.

It replaces the regulator’s annual Enforcement Report, having a broader scope to reflect the BSB’s new and more holistic approach to regulatory decision-making which began in 2019, in which all incoming queries and information it receives are assessed centrally. These reforms also included the establishment of a new Independent Decision-making body to take independent enforcement and other decisions.

Important regulatory decisions made by the BSB in 2019-20 included:

  • making Bar training more accessible, affordable and flexible by enabling students to qualify via one of three pathways and beginning to authorise universities and other organisations to provide a range of courses;
  • enhancing the efficiency of our regulatory decision-making with the new Enforcement Decision Regulations which came into force in October 2019, designed to modernise the BSB’s regulatory operations by streamlining and improving the way we assess and handle reports about those we regulate;
  • bringing greater fairness and consistency to pupillage recruitment by requiring Authorised Education and Training Organisations to recruit pupils in line with a single timetable from November 2020;
  • clarifying the obligations on pupils and their pupillage providers by determining that written agreements between the two parties be made compulsory from May 2020;
  • helping to improve standards of advocacy and the public’s experience in Coroners Courts by collaborating with stakeholders to start developing resources for barristers who work in this area; and
  • taking action to address bullying and harassment at the Bar, including by providing specialist training for BSB staff responsible for dealing with reports about conduct of this nature, carrying out research to better understand why some barristers who have been subject to this conduct do not report it, and monitoring the effectiveness of our pilot schemes which give waivers from the requirement to report serious misconduct to those involved in giving support to members of the profession who have experienced harassment.

The key statistical findings of the report are as follows:

  • Overall, the number of reports – a term that means any incoming information the BSB receives, including what were formerly known as “complaints” – was 1489 in 2019-20, which is an increase of around ten percent compared with 2018-19 (1,340), and significantly above the 1242 received in 2017-18 and 1098 received in 2016-17;
  • The number of barristers disbarred in 2019-20 increased to ten, compared to four in 2018-19, five in 2017-18 and twenty in 2016-17; and
  • Fifteen barristers were suspended in 2019-20, compared to four in 2018-19, eight in 2017-18 and six in 2016-17.

Commenting on the report, the BSB’s Director of Regulatory Operations, Oliver Hanmer, said: “The BSB took many important decisions this year, from authorising Bar training providers to offer a range of new courses, to deciding to introduce new requirements for pupillage providers in order to make recruitment fairer. This new, wide-ranging report reflects the reforms that we implemented in October 2019 to how regulatory decisions are taken. We believe this new approach is already helping to ensure that our regulation is more risk-based, targeted and effective”.

The full Regulatory Decisions Report 2019-20 is available on the BSB website.

The Independent Decision-making Body, which takes regulatory decisions on behalf of the BSB that require independent input, also published its first annual report today. You can read that report here.

ENDS

Notes to editors

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.

About the Regulatory Decisions Report

The Regulatory Decisions Report provides an overview of decisions taken by the BSB in relation to its regulatory operations, and legal and enforcement work in the year to 31 March 2020.

Reforms to the BSB’s approach to regulatory decision-making in October 2019 also saw the introduction of new Key Performance Indicators for the handling of reports to reflect the new regulatory operations systems, so full year performance statistics are not available for this report. The first full year reporting of KPI performance will therefore be included next year.

 The key statistical findings of the report include:

  • Overall, the number of reports – a term that means any incoming information the BSB receives, including what were formerly known as “complaints” – was 1489 in 2019-20, which is an increase of around ten percent compared with 2018-19 (1,340), and significantly above the 1242 received in 2017-18 and 1098 received in 2016-17;
  • The number of reports investigated for potential breaches of the BSB Handbook was 176 in 2019-20, up from 146 in 2018-19 and more in line with 199 being referred in 2017-18 and 175 in 2016-17;
  • The number of referrals to disciplinary action decreased to 31 in 2019-20, down from 50 cases in 2018-19, 37 in 2017-18, and 66 in 2016-17;
  • 42 disciplinary tribunals took place during 2019-20 compared with 27 during 2018-19, 39 in 2017-18 and 56 in 2016-17;
  • There were findings of professional misconduct made in 88% of the cases heard by a tribunal – a slight increase on the previous year (84%);
  • The number of barristers disbarred in 2019-20 increased to ten, up from four in 2018-19, five in 2017-18 and twenty in 2016-17;
  • Fifteen barristers were suspended in 2019-20, compared to four in 2018-19, eight in 2017-18 and six in 2016-17;
  • 981 applications for waivers and exemptions from the BSB’s requirements to practise were received in 2019-20, the most common type of which related to requests by “Foreign Lawyers” to be admitted to the Bar of England and Wales; and
  • 25 new “entities” – specialist legal services businesses which have different structures to a traditional barristers’ chambers - were authorised by the BSB in 2019-20, reaching a total of 125 by the end of March 2020.

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