21 September 2019

Blog: Monthly message from our Chair Sir Andrew Burns KCMG

As you will see below, our key priorities at the moment are our latest consultations on training for the Bar and on our response to the recommendations of the Competition and Markets Authority. I do urge you to read our consultation documents and to offer us your views. Do please also come to our seminars, roadshows or webinars if you can. You'll find details of the times and dates below.

But these are by no means our only focus. This month we are also updating the third edition of our Handbook which includes updated Disciplinary Tribunal Regulations (DTRs) and new rules on parental leave, in addition to some minor amendments to provide additional clarity. One of the key new rules in the DTRs concerns the treatment of vulnerable witnesses. Improving access to justice for vulnerable clients, with a focus on immigration and young people is one of our equality objectives for 2017/18.

Following a public consultation in July 2015, we have now approved and updated eight areas overall in the DTRs, including rules concerning:

  • The publication of reasons for the Tribunal Decision where charges have been dismissed.
  • The handling of evidence and documents that are not submitted in line with directions of the Tribunal.
  • Specific provisions to clarify the measures that can be put in place to help vulnerable witnesses give evidence.
  • The removal of deferred sentences and an express power to postpone some suspensions in exceptional circumstances.
  • The removal of the Tribunal's ability to remove a barrister's "rights and privileges" as a member of their Inn

The revised regulations seek to modernise and streamline existing regulation and were approved by the Legal Services Board (LSB) in June.

A year ago, our Equality and Access to Justice Team launched a consultation on a rule change to enable practitioners at the self-employed Bar to claim Shared Parental Leave, with the aim of encouraging a culture whereby both parents can care for children in the first year of birth or adoption. The new Handbook contains the new rules which have emanated from the consultation. This means that all chambers must have a policy that allows any member who becomes the carer of a child to take parental leave. While the precise details of such policies are for individual chambers to decide, the new rule requires that flexible working arrangements be available to members during their parental leave.

Along with the Bar Council we plan to produce additional guidance on this change, and you have until November 2018 to update your policies.