15 September 2019

Blog: Monthly message from our Chair, Baroness Blackstone

We have recently updated our guidance on the reporting of serious misconduct. The update makes it clear that our policy is not to take enforcement action against barristers who fail to comply with their duty to report discrimination, harassment (whether of a sexual nature or otherwise) or victimisation where they themselves have been the subject of these types of misconduct.

This follows a roundtable event that we held in July on reducing bullying and harassment. At the event, we received feedback from barristers that the duty to report may prevent the Bar from offering support to those affected by these types of misconduct. Along with issuing the updated guidance, we have therefore also introduced a new system whereby certain groups of properly trained barristers can participate in formal pilot support schemes. Participation means barristers may seek our permission for the requirement to report harassment to the BSB to be waived in certain clearly defined situations. We have recently published guidance for the operation of this waiver scheme. It is designed to allow individual barristers to participate in identified support programmes in order to provide advice and support to those who may have experienced harassment. The programmes themselves need to be approved by the BSB too.

Later this month, we will be issuing new guidance for barristers on the use of non-disclosure arrangements (NDAs) in cases of alleged sexual harassment.

In collaboration with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner, we have also published new guidance for professional clients when instructing immigration barristers.

You may have seen that we recently published our annual Enforcement Report for 2017-18, which shows the efficiency improvements we have made in parts of our system for handling complaints about barristers.

Finally, I am pleased to record that on 10 October we received the approval of the Legal Services Board for the Rules changes necessary to move from the criminal to the civil standard of proof for disciplinary cases.  So this change can now take effect for alleged breaches of the Code occurring after 31 March 2019, as we intended.