Barrister who took BSB to judicial review hopes for “fair hearing” of forgery claims

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20 August 2015


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Fresh Bar disciplinary tribunal to rule on client care letters

Damian McCarthy, a barrister whose disbarment was overturned by the Court of Appeal, has said he is hoping for a “fair hearing” from a new Bar disciplinary tribunal.

Mr McCarthy launched a judicial review after he was disbarred in 2011, following accusations by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) that he had forged client care letters. The ruling was later upheld by the Visitors to the Inns of Court.

He told Legal Futures: “The Court of Appeal found that both my disciplinary and appeal hearings were unfair because of the conduct of the BSB.

“The BSB made a conscious decision to withhold a witness statement to try and secure my conviction. I have never received a fair hearing and have now waited four and a half years.

“If it is possible to receive a fair hearing, I hope that any disciplinary tribunal will examine all of the evidence fairly and objectively and reach a fair decision.”

At a Court of Appeal hearing in January this year, Lord Justice Burnett described a BSB official who failed to disclose a prosecution statement in the case of “subverting the rules” and being “blind to any sense of fairness”.

However, the court recognised that there was a “strong case” against Mr McCarthy and the following month appeal judges returned the case to a new panel of Visitors.

The Visitors ruled at the end of last month that there was “no basis” for saying that Mr McCarthy would be deprived of a fair hearing “by reason of delay and/or any prior knowledge” of BSB witnesses.

In a statement, Sara Jagger, BSB director of professional conduct, said she was pleased that their judgment enabled a fresh tribunal to take place.

“Mr McCarthy worked as a public access barrister and as an employment advocate, but was disbarred after the initial finding in 2011. The tribunal found that Mr McCarthy falsified client care letters to the BSB during an investigation that he should have issued to the client.

“The client raised a complaint about the fees charged, for which no client care letters had been issued to the client originally, stating what the fees would be.

“Due to an error in the BSB’s handling of the case during the original tribunal, McCarthy’s disbarment was overturned after a lengthy appeal process. The BSB issued a statement acknowledging its error when the disbarment was overturned in January 2015.

“Notwithstanding the history of this case, the BSB remains of the view that Mr McCarthy acted dishonestly and falsified the client care letters during our original investigation.

“As this is a fundamental breach of the integrity expected from all barristers, it is right that this serious disciplinary matter can now be reheard by an independent disciplinary tribunal.”

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