Barrister suspended after appearing in court when unauthorised – again

Courts: Barrister was repeat offender

An experienced barrister who appeared in two courts without having a practising certificate has been suspended for four months, having been fined twice in previous years for the same offence.

But the law firm that instructed him for the latest incident has since employed him as a paralegal and said it may consider taking him on as a barrister once his suspension is over.

Peter Masniuk, who was called in 1983, appeared in private law children matters in Leicester and Birmingham in November 2019 when he did not have a practising certificate, meaning he was unauthorised to do so.

He admitted the misconduct and the Bar disciplinary tribunal then heard that there were more findings of misconduct in 2001 (twice), 2012 and 2015. One of the early cases and the 2015 matter were also about practising without authorisation. He was fined £100 in 2001 and given a reprimand and £500 fine in 2015.

Three of the cases had also included offences of failing to co-operate with his regulator or failing to provide necessary information to Bar Mutual, and in the present case he had also “failed to respond promptly to communications from the BSB”.

In mitigation, the tribunal accepted that Mr Masniuk had expressed genuine remorse and that his personal circumstances – including the suicide of a close family member – was a mitigating factor, albeit carrying less weight than it might have done “given his past reliance on personal mitigation”.

The tribunal was provided too with a reference from a solicitor and director at Luton and Birmingham law firm Morgan Wiseman, which had instructed him in relation to one of the cases in which Mr Masniuk appeared.

It recorded: “Despite the events of that day, Morgan Wiseman have gone on since December 2019 to employ Mr Masniuk as a paralegal.

“The author of the letter says he has known Mr Masniuk since 2011 and was supportive of the legal services which he had provided. The firm is prepared to consider employing him as a barrister in due course as and when the circumstances of his registration permit the to do so.”

The tribunal concluded that a suspension was warranted, saying the offences undermined public confidence and were serious breaches.

It went on: “A signal needed to be sent to the public and the profession that this behaviour was unacceptable. Financial penalties had been imposed in the past and had not been effective to prevent Mr Masniuk from reoffending. Because of the history, there was at least some risk of repetition.”

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