Deech calls on BSB to take to social media to combat negative stories


Robertson: new BSB vice-chair

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is to boost its use of social media to rebut future negative publicity, after a bruising encounter with conventional news media in the wake of the ongoing controversy over barristers’ disciplinary tribunals.

At last night’s meeting of the full BSB board, chair Baroness Ruth Deech urged members to overcome their fear of using Twitter and blogging to improve communication on controversial issues.

“We should be doing more of it, because of the speed of getting out our version of events. Once the wrong story gets a hold, it’s very hard to dislodge – you’ve got to deny it within minutes otherwise it’s all over the place.”

She acknowledged that for those who were not used to using the new media it was an alarming prospect. “I know it’s all too easy to hit the button and then regret what you’ve done”. But she urged: “We should not be scared of doing it”

Baroness Deech described her irritation at appearing on BBC Radio Four’s Today programme, in which she had little time to counter what she said were errors in its presentation of the story about the Council of the Inns of Court’s (COIC) administration of the tribunal system. The programme “was blaming the BSB for what was actually a failure in administration by COIC”, she told the board. She conceded that the BSB did not “get across sufficiently” this message.

The programme reported on alleged “secrecy, incompetence and maladministration” and made criticisms of the BSB, which Baroness Deech strongly refuted at the time. It was the first mainstream airing of a story covered in detail by Legal Futures throughout this year.

At the end of last month the BSB accepted that some barristers should have disciplinary findings against them overturned. However, in her report to yesterday’s meeting, BSB director Dr Vanessa Davies made clear that “the BSB intends to defend any challenges to the validity of proceedings in the overwhelming majority of cases where anomalies arose”.

  • Patricia Robertson QC, a barrister at Fountain Court Chambers, has been appointed as the new BSB vice-chair from January 2013, to replace Sir Geoffrey Nice. Ms Robertson is currently chair of the standards committee and has overseen work on the new handbook and entity regulation. Baroness Deech said she was “delighted” at the appointment.

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