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

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14 September 2012

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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2 Responses to “Deech calls on BSB to take to social media to combat negative stories”

  1. Maybe you have heard ” It is better that 10 guilty men go free than 1 innocent man goes to prison” however the BSB allows someone to make a statement on its behalf stating 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”.

  2. Lloyd on September 14th, 2012 at 12:05 pm
  3. How interesting that Lady Ruth Deech denies that the BSB is responsible for any maladminstration and that the fact that some 700 Barristers have been convicted by people whose authority over them was questionable, is all COIC’s fault. Lady Deech is a member of COIC and attends all its meetings with a train of fellow BSB officers. She forgets that she actually IS COIC. When Lady Deech next twitters, maybe she will address these issues:

    (1) I am aware of 3 cases this year in which the BSB has wrongly prosecuted Barristers on utterly specious grounds. The BSB lost those cases and had to pay costs. In the case of H , 2 sets of charges were struck out. In O’Connor v BSB, the BSB prosecuted Portia O’Connor for signing a statement of truth despite the CPR allowing Barristers to do this. In another, the BSB were heavily criticised after subjecting the Barrister to months of prosecution and a trial on a totally trivial basis. Those cases were not so much prosecution as persecution. They all involved ethnic minority Barristers, 2 of whom were women, one of whom took the matter to appeal whilst about to give birth – despite which the “diverse” BSB continued with its cruel behaviour towards her. It now has to pay her costs of £ 20,000.
    (2) In one recent case, the BSB deliberately flouted the Order of a High Court Judge to disclose a sponsor report. If a Barrister did such a thing the BSB would prosecute him or her. The BSB appears to have no respect for Orders that are made against it and in the case in question behaved as if it had ownership of the tribunal. Costs were awarded against the BSB;
    (3) have asked the BSB to hold an enquiry into the above matters and they have refused to do so;
    (4) the BSB has been severely castigated by senior judges for non-disclosure in several cases – it continues to fail to make proper disclosure and simply ignores judicial censure. The judgment of Thirlwall J in V v BSB (2011) ought to be read by all Barristers;
    (5) the BSB declines to publish successful appeals in the way that it zealously publishes convictions to the entire profession;
    (6) Lady Deech states that the BSB is “transparent” – but it does not even mInute conduct committee decisions. It hides large parts of its internal reports about barristers. It will not reveal them even when a High Court Judge orders it to do so. And when this material is eventually disclosed, it invariably reveals serious error by the BSB, that the non-disclosure was designed to conceal;
    (7) Lady Deech plainly cannot have read the Browne report which is on the Grays Inn website, in which Desmond Browne QC (a recent Chairman of the Bar) explains how the BSB unlawfully placed one of its conduct committee members on the COIC appointments body for some 6 years until someone noticed. Was this all COIC’s fault ? How much twittering will camouflage the obvious inference to be drawn from this BSB subversion of the independence of the disciplinary tribunal ?
    (8) Lady Deech may have been “irritated” by Radio 4 – but as recently as early August 2012 she proclaimed on the BSB website that the BSB is a “transparent” organisation. Quite apart from the fact that this proclamation is dramatically inconsistent with the facts of several cases in which I have appeared for the defence, a truly “transparent” organisation welcomes being accountable to the public that it professes to serve;
    (9) If Lady Deech’s BSB is so “transparent” why does the Board she chairs go into secret session ? Where is the formal BSB resolution that it is permitted to operate in secret at Board and at conduct committee level ?
    (10) The Bar will always remember Lady Ruth Deech’s statement on Radio 4 to the effect that she believes that ifbBarristers are upset by the BSB, then it must be doing a good job. That was one of the most unpleasant – albeit comical – remarks I have ever heard from an official connected with the Bar Council. But it has the virtue of consistency: it chimes with the persecution by the BSB of some of my clients. The mindset seems to be that it is alright to prosecute members of the Bar without proper grounds for doing so (grounds which are formulated in secret from a report that is never properly disclosed) because it upsets them, which the public enjoy. Tell that to the members of the Bar who are funding the BSB’s failures in such cases.

  4. Marc Beaumont on September 14th, 2012 at 12:06 pm

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