The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today published its latest annual Regulatory Decision-making Report.
This is the second Regulatory Decision-Making report that the BSB has published since it reformed the way regulatory decisions are taken in October 2019. It covers the period April 2020 to March 2021. The report reflects the first full year of data following changes to the BSB’s approach to regulatory decision-making.
Overall, the BSB has seen a substantial increase in both the number of reports and the number of applications for exemptions and waivers received. This increase coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic and has had a significant impact on performance against key performance indicators. Nonetheless, the BSB has increased proactive supervision and support of the profession in key areas of pupillage and bullying and harassment.
The key statistical findings of the report are as follows:
- The number of enquiries and reports – a term that means any incoming information the BSB receives, including what were formerly known as “complaints” – was 3,303 in 2020-21, which is a substantial increase of 54 percent compared with 2019-20 (2,150). The number of actual reports received about barristers’ conduct in 2020-21 was 1,887. This represents a 29% increase on the previous year;
- The number of barristers disbarred in 2020-2021 decreased to four, compared to ten in 2019-20, four in 2018-19, and five in 2017-18;
- Nine barristers were suspended in 2020-21, compared to fifteen in 2019-20, four in 2018-19 and nine in 2017-18;
- During 2020-21 we dealt with a total of 1,140 applications for authorisations, exemptions and waivers;
- Waivers were issued encouraging those offering pupillage to allow pupils to start their pupillage pending the results of their BPTC exams, which enabled 95 people to progress to pupillage;
- We engaged extensively with those offering vocational training throughout the period so that computer based assessment as well as traditional pen and paper exam opportunities were offered enabling Bar students to complete their vocational training;
- The effect of the pandemic on pupillages was carefully researched and monitored.
Around 350 Regulatory Returns were issued to chambers, BSB entities and sole practitioners. These questionnaires are designed to enable the BSB to assess risk across the Bar and the levels of compliance with BSB rules and include questions about processes and controls in key areas of practice, and on specific priorities such as dealing with allegations of harassment and assessing the impact of the pandemic. Commenting on the report, the BSB’s Director of Regulatory Operations, Oliver Hanmer, said:
“It has been a challenging year for the regulatory decision-making functions of the BSB, with significant increases in reports about barristers and the volume of authorisation applications. This increase, coupled with the impact of COVID on our resource capacity, has affected our performance against our published service standards. Productivity and the quality of our decision making during this period has nevertheless remained high and this is testament to the commitment and hard work of our people.
The Bar, like most other professions, has faced significant challenges this year and this report covers the period where the impact of COVID-19 was felt at its greatest. We have responded by working hard to understand the impact of the pandemic on the profession and to provide support where possible.
This year we have focussed particularly on supporting training providers so that vocational training courses could be completed and on Chambers so that they could continue to offer pupillage, and we have strengthened our focus on bullying and harassment at the Bar.”
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 about that report here.
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
About the Regulatory Decision-Making Report
The Regulatory Decision-Making 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 2021.
Reforms to the BSB’s approach to regulatory decision-making in October 2019 saw the introduction of new Key Performance Indicators for the handling of reports to reflect the new regulatory operations systems, so This is the first full year reporting of KPI performance.
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