19 September 2014

BSB enforcement activity producing better outcomes: time taken to investigate complaints against barristers reducing

19 September 2014

The latest Annual Report on the performance of the Bar Standards Board (BSB)'s Professional Conduct Committee and Professional Conduct Department has been published today. The report shows that the percentage of cases being concluded or referred to disciplinary action within the agreed service standards increased from 64% in 2012/13 to 77% in 2013/14.

This improvement comes at the same time as a change in emphasis with the BSB adopting a more outcomes-focused, risk-based approach to enforcement activities. The switch is a key move towards smarter regulation, seeing attention focused on the most serious complaints of potential professional misconduct.

The report also shows an increase in the number of barristers being disbarred or suspended with 19 individual barristers disbarred in 2013/14. The number of cases resulting in disbarment increased from 13 in 2012/13 to 23 in 2013/14 while the number of cases resulting in suspension increased from 8 to 20 during the same period.

Director of Professional Conduct, Sara Jagger, said: "Focusing our resources where they are most needed and best used is helping us to conclude cases more quickly. The increase in the number of disbarments and suspensions shows that we are identifying and taking appropriate action against those barristers who pose the greatest risk to the public. It indicates that a targeted and robust system of enforcement is in place."

Other key issues highlighted in the report include:

  • In 2013/14 the BSB received 300 complaints from external sources - a similar total to the previous two years.
  • Almost a third (31%) of external complaints came from civil litigants - the biggest source of individual external complaints.
  • The most common allegations were of discreditable or dishonest conduct (50% of cases), followed by allegations of misleading the court (33%).
  • The number of barristers investigated for failure to comply with Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements fell significantly in 2013/14. This reduction was due to a change to the way in which the BSB monitors CPD compliance and is the main factor in explaining the reduction in the overall number of complaints opened: 408 in 2013/14 compared with 491 in 2012/13. 
  • The results of the user satisfaction survey found that more complainants were satisfied with the way in which the BSB handled their complaint in 2013/14 than in 2012/13 and over 70% of barristers coming into contact with the complaints process felt it was open and fair.

The annual report for 2013/14 is published on our website.

There is more information about the BSB's complaints-handling process on the BSB website


Notes to editors

About internal and external complaints

"Internal complaints" refer to complaints raised when the BSB itself identifies potential breaches of the Bar Standards Board Handbook. "External complaints" refer to complaints from clients of barristers (via the Legal Ombudsman), members of the public, solicitors, or other professionals and organisations.

About the BSB's Professional Conduct Department's Annual Report 2013/14

The report covers enforcement work for the year 1 April 2013 to 31 March 2014. Previous Annual Reports are available here: http://bit.ly/1pOOKQa

About Continuing Professional Development for barristers

For more information about the BSB's approach to CPD, please see http://bit.ly/1ttBOlC

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.