19 September 2014

Independent review shows Bar Standards Board’s complaints handling process “fair, consistent, and well-reasoned”

19 September 2014

Decisions made by the Bar Standards Board's Professional Conduct Department, which deals with complaints about professional misconduct by barristers, are "fair, consistent, and well-reasoned", according to an independent review of the regulator's enforcement system.

In her latest independent review of how complaints against barristers are handled by the Bar Standards Board (BSB), the Independent Observer found that based on her observations, she was able to provide the BSB with a substantial level of assurance that the enforcement system has operated in accordance with its aims and objectives, including that:

  • potential breaches of the Code are being identified and appropriately pursued;
  • decisions are fair and consistent;
  • communications are clear;
  • decisions are well reasoned;
  • staff are polite and professional in their written contacts; and
  • equality and diversity issues are being appropriately addressed.

The report was authored by the Independent Observer, Isobel Leaviss, whose role it is to provide independent assurance to the BSB that its enforcement system is operating in line with its aims and objectives. It is her third annual report since her appointment in 2010.

In her report she sets out a number of observations about the BSB's enforcement system, including "good administrative standards in the handling of cases and a demonstrable commitment to fairness when responding to complainants and/or barristers".

She also sets out a number of recommendations for improvement and, in particular, notes that "much more could be done to promote wider understanding amongst the profession and consumers of legal services of the BSB's enforcement role" and that a project to improve the website "must be given the resourcing and priority it deserves in order to achieve greater transparency and accessibility".

Commenting on the report, the BSB's Director-General Dr Vanessa Davies said: "I welcome the findings and recommendations set out in this report by our Independent Observer. Her contributions continue to play an invaluable part in our efforts to operate to the highest ethical standards, in a fair and transparent way. The BSB has accepted all of the recommendations set out by the Independent Observer and many of these have already been implemented."

The report can be found on the BSB website.

Previous reports by the Independent Observer are available to download from 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