23 September 2019

Blog: Monthly message from our Chair Sir Andrew Burns KCMG

As you may know, I am standing down as the Chair of the Bar Standards Board at the end of this month having completed my term.

It has been a privilege and honour to chair the BSB for the last three years and to work with such dedicated and able colleagues on the Board and within the executive team. We have responded to numerous challenges along the way, but I am confident that regulation of the Bar is moving in a strong and sustainable direction and that we are acting as we are obliged to do, first and foremost in the public interest, and at the same time supporting those we regulate to face the future.

Thanks in particular to some of the governance reforms that have been implemented across the BSB during my term in office, I can now hand over the reins of a more efficient and effective regulator to my successor, the Rt Hon the Baroness Blackstone. I wish her good luck in her new position.

This edition of the Regulatory Update contains news of two further significant  changes.

First, the Board has decided to take a new approach towards assuring the public about the quality of advocacy. This means that the BSB will no longer be implementing the Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates (QASA).

Since QASA was approved four years ago, the BSB has substantially changed its approach to regulation to become a more targeted and risk-based regulator. We have introduced a number of regulatory initiatives that are designed to support standards of practice at the Bar and to encourage barristers to take responsibility for their own learning and development by removing the more prescriptive regulation of CPD for example. There will always be a need to deal with instances of poor practice or failure to comply with the Code but our aim is to create a supportive regulatory framework that will help the profession to manage its own professionalism and standards in the quality of practice.

While quality assurance therefore remains at the heart of what we aim to achieve, the Board and I therefore now believe that QASA no longer fits within the BSB's regulatory approach.

Second, I am pleased that one of the key decisions made by the Board in my last meeting as their Chair was to change the standard of proof to be applied when barristers, and others regulated by the BSB, face disciplinary proceedings for professional misconduct. Our consultation on this issue revealed that opinion was divided within the profession as to whether a change should be made, but we believe that by switching from the criminal standard to the civil standard we will enhance the regulation of the Bar, as well as bring the Bar's disciplinary arrangements in line with those of most other professions. If this change is approved by the LSB, it will be an important step forward in the BSB's ongoing work to improve the regulation of the Bar in the public interest.

Finally, I would like to put on record my respect and admiration for the work that you perform in your roles as barristers. Your work is why the Bar of England and Wales is held in the highest esteem around the world, and it is of course, an essential component of our justice system. It has been an honour to have worked so closely with this fascinating profession over the past three years and I wish you all the very best of luck for the future.

Sir Andrew Burns