The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is investigating 17 barristers at the same chambers over complaints about a ‘failure to act appropriately towards pupils’, it has emerged.
The BSB described the linked complaints as “another instance where a single issue has a significant impact on our workload and enforcement statistics”.
According to the regulator’s annual enforcement report for the year to 31 March 2015, there were no other internal complaints about behaviour towards pupils. The previous year, there were three.
The BSB said nine investigations were also started into barristers with drink-driving convictions, compared to only one the previous year.
Practising without a practising certificate headed the list of complaints, accounting for 34%, followed by dishonesty/discreditable conduct with 26%.
The BSB’s new system of spot-checking barristers on continuing professional development (CPD) generated seven complaints, compared to none the previous year.
In total, the BSB said it opened 144 complaints of its own volition, all assessed to be “medium or high risk or a priority area”, during the year.
The regulator said half of the complaints about failure to renew a practising certificate or practising without one “related to new barristers who completed their pupillage and began practising but did not realise that they needed to apply for a new practising certificate”.
The BSB said it was taking steps to ensure “barristers are well informed of their obligations once they complete pupillage” and would deal with the pupillage-related complaints through administrative warnings.
The regulator explained that under the new version of its handbook, barristers are required to tell it when they have committed serious misconduct and when they believe there has been serious misconduct by other barristers.
In 2014/15, the first full year of the new regime, the BSB “received 30 reports from barristers about themselves and a further 35 reports about other barristers”.
The regulator said 26 of these were assessed as high or medium risk and converted to internal complaints, and the issues involved included practising without a PC, “discreditable conduct” and criminal convictions.
Elsewhere in the report, disbarment was the most common sanction imposed by Bar disciplinary tribunals in 2014/15, with a total of 13 barristers being disbarred.