The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has hit back at criticism on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme of the way in which it conducts disciplinary proceedings against barristers.
Yesterday the programme – which featured a contribution from Legal Futures editor Neil Rose – reported on claims of “secrecy, incompetence and maladministration”.
Marc Beaumont of Windsor Chambers, described as ‘the barrister’s barrister’ for his role in representing barristers facing disciplinary proceedings, described “systemic defects”, such as a lack of transparency and a lack of fairness. “If I was to say that the system appears to be in a state of collapse, I do not think that is an exaggeration,” he said.
Among the other issues raised were possible conflicts of interest for ‘sponsor’ barristers – who investigate conduct complaints on behalf of the BSB – and the problems with appointments made to disciplinary tribunals, which have been reported extensively by this website.
In response, BSB chair Baroness Ruth Deech said: “As a competent, transparent and public interest regulator, the Bar Standards Board continues to promote and uphold the highest regulatory standards. We pride ourselves on the fact that we operate in an open and transparent manner, and our disciplinary processes serve to underline the fact that we take complaints by the public of professional misconduct extremely seriously.
“We are continually refining and improving our processes, especially in the light of the scale of change which the legal profession is currently undergoing, and we are making excellent progress. We have been particularly heartened by recent developments on the Council of the Inns of Court, which allows us to look more closely at our options for the administration of our disciplinary system, currently under active consideration.
“Independent scrutiny has attested to our openness and transparency. As an organisation, we continually work to ensure that we meet regulatory best practice standards.”