05 January 2012

Professional Conduct report - third quarter

Our Professional Conduct Department has released its third quarter report, it provides a summary of the key trends and performance of the department for the period 1 July to 30 September 2011.

Key trends

  • The number of external complaints received by the BSB increased slightly compared with the second quarter of 2011. However, the figure of 80 complaints remains essentially in line with the previous two quarters.
  • The spike in internal complaints reported in the second quarter of 2011 was followed by a further, larger, spike in the third quarter with the referral to the PCD of 99 cases of barristers failing to pay either the first or second instalments of their practising certificate fee. This brought the total number of internal complaints opened in 2011 to date up to 230 compared with 171 in the whole of 2010. The annual CPD referrals have yet to be referred to the PCD.
  • The Legal Ombudsman (LeO) formally referred a total of 8 complaints in which issues of misconduct were identified, maintaining the referral rate of 9% reported in the previous quarter. As LeO has now been operational for 12 months, this would appear to be the baseline that the BSB can expect going forward.
  • The high number of complaints from litigants in person reported in the first half of 2011 was seen again. The total for the year to date now stands at 55 compared with just seven in the whole of 2010. Litigants in person continue to make a disproportionately high number of allegations of "misleading the court".
  • Allegations of discreditable conduct or dishonesty remain the most frequently occurring aspect for external complaints with 38 received. This is unsurprising considering the wide range of behaviours constituting potential breaches of paragraph 301 of the Code.
  • The high figure for referrals to Disciplinary Tribunal reported in the first half of 2011 was maintained with 43 referrals made in the third quarter; the highest quarterly figure since 2008. Committee decisions on the PCF cases received in the second quarter led directly to the increase in numbers.
  • Following the high figures reported in the second quarter (153), the total number of professional misconduct complaints closed in the third quarter decreased by 25% to 114. Such a decrease was also observed in the third quarter of 2010 and can be attributed to the summer recess. While in the past the trend has been for performance to improve again in the following quarters, the increased volume of internal complaints in the department makes a repeat of this trend unlikely.
  • The outcomes of complaints remain at the levels seen in previous quarters, with the majority of external complaints being dismissed due to lack of evidence of any breach of the Code and internal complaints considerably more likely to be upheld.
  • No complaints resulted in disbarment in the third quarter, in contrast to the relatively high figures reported in the previous two quarters.


Read the full report