The Bar Council has taken the unusual step of criticising the Bar Standards Board (BSB) for its “unacceptable and inexcusable” handling of a complaint against Dinah Rose KC.
It went on to criticise the regulator’s performance more broadly.
As we reported yesterday, the BSB issued a public apology to Ms Rose over how it dealt with a complaint over her representing the Cayman Islands government before the Privy Council and whether the cab-rank rule was engaged.
This included telling the complainant the outcome of the investigation without having given her the chance to comment on it.
Bar Council chair Mark Fenhalls KC welcomed the apology but said he was “deeply concerned by what has happened”.
He said: “It is central to the professional standards of barristers that they represent clients whether or not they approve of the client’s position, and that barristers are not to be associated with their clients’ causes merely by virtue of having represented them.
“The BSB’s handling of the complaint against Dinah Rose was unacceptable and inexcusable.
“It is inconsistent with the fundamental principles of fairness to ever issue a decision document to a complainant which is critical of a barrister without providing the barrister with an opportunity to be heard or to comment.”
Mr Fenhalls pointed that the BSB was failing to meet its performance indicators for the exercise of its regulatory functions.
“It is dealing with cases much too slowly. The BSB must now concentrate on its core responsibility of investigating allegations of professional misconduct in a timely and accurate manner, and do so in a way that conforms to the elementary principles of natural justice which were overlooked in this case.”
The Legal Services Board’s assessment of the BSB’s performance in 2021 was that it lacked access to “sufficient capability, capacity and resources”.
In the summer, the BSB admitted that its performance in terms of time taken to accept a case referred for investigation and to complete an investigation had fallen to an “all-time low”.
Mr Fenhalls added: “The BSB has undertaken to review its own processes. This must be a transparent and ‘root and branch’ review of process if the BSB is to regain the confidence of the profession and the public.”