Barrister convicted of assault suspended for 28 days

Cocaine: Barrister accepted police caution

A barrister convicted of assault has been suspended for 28 days, less than a year after he was fined by his regulator for possessing a Class A drug.

Richard Keogh, who was called in 1991, was given the suspension after he assaulted three members of the public, leading to his conviction by South Essex Magistrates’ Court in February 2019. He was fined £500 for each offence.

A Bar disciplinary tribunal found Mr Keogh had engaged in conduct which was likely to diminish the trust and confidence in which the public places in the profession. The tribunal’s decision is open to appeal.

Mr Keogh was reprimanded and fined £750 last December after he accepted a police caution for possession of one wrap of cocaine. The case did not go to a tribunal after the Bar Standards Board agreed a ‘determination by consent’.

Mr Keogh was working at East London law firm Alexander Johnson & Co at the time. The determination recorded: “On 10 April 2018, Mr Keogh was working in his office. Mr Keogh had been told that cocaine helped relieve stress and had therefore used a small quantity outside. He left the remainder of the cocaine in a small wrapper and placed it in an envelope, forgetting about it.

“Later that day, Mr Keogh crossed a cheque intended for a set of chambers, and inadvertently placed it into the same envelope in which he had previously placed the cocaine. Mr Keogh then sent that envelope to the set of chambers.

“Upon receiving the envelope, chambers found the cocaine and notified the police. Mr Keogh’s employers were also informed resulting in his immediate suspension. The following day Mr Keogh contacted both the police and self-reported to the Bar Standards Board.”

Meanwhile, a criminal defence barrister convicted of fraudulent tax evasion at Leeds Crown Court last year has been disbarred.

In June 2018, Peter Moss, called in 1980, was jailed for 18 months after he failed to submit 26 VAT returns and any self-assessment returns since 1999, resulting in a loss to HM Revenue & Customs of £138,500.

Also disbarred last month was Azfar Naseem Bajwa, an unregistered barrister and solicitor who ran his own practice in East London, before he was struck off by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in late 2017 for bringing hopeless judicial reviews on behalf of immigration clients.

The Bar tribunal described as “very serious” the allegations against Mr Bajwa, called in 1996 before qualifying as a solicitor and becoming principal of A Bajwa & Co.

The tribunal went on: “The filing of unarguable and abusive claims was part of a pattern to secure a result which could not otherwise have been legitimately achieved. It was a deliberate process. The impact on the judicial system and the public purse is self-evident.”

The tribunal said it was sure, to the criminal standard, that Mr Bajwa’s behaviour could reasonable be seen by the public to undermine his integrity as a barrister.

In a separate ruling, a tribunal has ordered that Mr Bajwa’s son, dual-qualified Naseem, called in 2012, should be suspended for a year.

It found that the barrister made a false declaration on his admission application to Gray’s Inn by failing to disclose that he had been fined by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in 2010.

In other Bar disciplinary news, the BSB is creating a new tribunal representation panel, to be launched in January 2020.

The move is a break from the past, when barristers represented the BSB at tribunals and at a range of other hearings on a pro bono basis.

“The pro bono model is no longer considered appropriate in the modern era and is not the best way to ensure that the BSB has ready access to suitable counsel for all our cases,” it said.

Depending on seniority, the BSB will pay a brief fee of up to £2,000 and refresher fees of up to £1,000 per day after the first day of the final hearing.

The BSB has also updated its policy on the publication of disciplinary findings:

  • For findings that do not result in a sentence involving a period of suspension or disbarment, information continues to be available for two years;
  • A suspension of up to 12 months is now published for five years on top of the duration of the suspension (it was 10 years);
  • A suspension of more than 12 months is now published for 10 years in addition to the duration of the suspension, having previously been indefinitely;
  • Disbarments will be published for 60 years, having also been indefinitely before July.

Finally, BSB director-general Dr Vanessa Davies reported to the full board last month that the regulator has settled a county court discrimination claim, without any acceptance of liability, relating to its unsuccessful historic prosecution of professional misconduct charges against a barrister and the subsequent protracted costs litigation.

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