"Flawed" Bar disciplinary panels oversaw hundreds of cases

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By Legal Futures

5 April 2012

Deech: law usually finds a way around appointment errors

Around 550 disciplinary cases involving barristers could be affected by the failure to validly appoint some of the tribunal members who sat in judgment on them, we can reveal.

It emerged last month that the Council of the Inns of Court (COIC), which oversees disciplinary cases for the Bar, failed to formally reappoint 80 members – both barrister and lay – who have sat on tribunals in the past.

The Bar Standards Board has overall responsibility for discipline and a spokeswoman said that COIC has established that the potential number of cases that might b

e affected is “approximately 550”.

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Legal Futures is aware that specialist regulatory lawyers are watching developments closely to see if the defect could allow those who have been disbarred, suspended or reprimanded to reopen their cases.

The spokeswoman continued: “COIC is undertaking further work to establish the full details of each case and the individual appointments before a clear picture can be communicated to the parties involved. However, we believe that there is a good case in law that the decisions of the panel members remain valid.”

Speaking at a recent BSB meeting, chair Baroness Deech said: “It’s not unknown in the disciplinary world to have a flaw in the appointment procedure, and the law usually finds a way around it.”

The BSB has also asked COIC to reinvestigate how many disciplinary panel members were also members of Bar Council committees, raising possible issues around conflicts of interest. COIC had originally advised that only one was in this position, but Legal Futures was aware of at least one other and COIC is now reviewing its findings.

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