BSB keeps its powder dry over Post Office barristers

Post Office: BSB is core participant

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has yet to see evidence from the Post Office inquiry that requires it to take urgent action against any barrister, it has told Legal Futures.

Though its stance mirrors that of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), one difference is that the BSB has signed a confidentiality undertaking as part of its involvement in the public inquiry, while the SRA refused.

Both regulators are core participants in the inquiry, headed by former High Court judge Sir Wyn Williams.

Earlier this month, the SRA said it wanted to wait until the end of the inquiry but that it could take action before then if there was evidence to show that a solicitor presented an ongoing risk to the public.

It is investigating a number of solicitors and law firms and chief executive Paul Philip said there was presently no such evidence.

The conduct of various barristers is also under scrutiny in the inquiry but the BSB has a standing policy of not commenting on whether or not it is investigating any individual barrister.

This only comes into the public domain in the event they are referred to a disciplinary tribunal.

A BSB spokesman said: “We continue to take a close interest in the Post Office Horizon inquiry in which we have been designated as a core participant. We shall of course be considering any potential breaches of the BSB Handbook in the light of the evidence submitted to the inquiry and in accordance with our usual procedures.” He said the BSB needed “to see and hear the full evidence”.

He added that “to date we do not consider the evidence from the inquiry indicates that any barrister presents an ongoing risk to the public”, stressing that, should such evidence emerge, “we would consider taking regulatory action as appropriate before the inquiry concludes”.

The SRA said back in October 2022 that the inquiry would not provide any of the evidence it held unless the regulator signed an undertaking “which restricts our ability to use the information in our processes”. It refused to do so as a result.

However, the BSB spokesman said it had given the undertaking: “We do not believe that it will prejudice our ability to fulfil our regulatory duties.”

In a public statement issued last week expanding a little on Mr Philip’s comments, which were made during a press briefing, the SRA said it has been gathering evidence through various means.

“This includes calling in evidence under our own powers, obtaining a court order requiring the Post Office/Royal Mail Group to provide us with relevant documents, and reviewing the information shared publicly through the statutory inquiry.

“So far, our investigation has involved scrutinising tens of thousands of pages of information and evidence.”

    Readers Comments

  • Susan Garnett says:

    The lawyers acting for the post office put untrue evidence before the court and have responsibility for inaccurate witness statement, discreditable contact or what. Why are the regulatory authorities not acting now, possibly leaving people with impossibly low standards to continue earning money.

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