Barristers who are cleared of misconduct by a disciplinary tribunal can still be sanctioned for breaching the BSB Handbook, under new changes to the rules approved by the Legal Services Board.
The Bar Standards Board (BSB) said the changes aimed to fill a “gap” in its disciplinary powers.
The BSB is able to issue a warning and a fine of up to £1,000 to barristers who have breached the Handbook, but will send them to a disciplinary tribunal if it believes the case requires a stronger sanction.
However, if a tribunal subsequently considers that the alleged behaviour does not amount to professional misconduct but is satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that there has been a breach of the Handbook, all it can currently do is dismiss the charge.
“This could result in no action being taken against a respondent who has clearly breached the Handbook,” said the BSB in its application to the LSB for a variety of changes to its disciplinary rules.
“In order to address this gap, the amended regulations include a power for the tribunal to direct that a matter be referred back to the BSB to consider the imposition of an administrative sanction.”
They also allow the BSB to reconsider complaints if they are referred back by a tribunal. “Such an approach affords greater public protection and flexibility, ensuring all breaches can be dealt with appropriately,” it said.
The LSB approved all the changes, which were aimed at modernising and streamlining the disciplinary procedure.
Meanwhile, the BSB has made an “interim change” to its policy on publishing disciplinary findings policy that means those suspended for up to a year will have the decision removed from the BSB’s website after a decade – previously, there were to remain online indefinitely.
The change applies retrospectively, so existing sentences which fall within this definition and have been published for 10 years or longer have been removed from the website as of 3 June 2017.
The BSB said: “The change is in line with proposals on the publication of disciplinary findings that were subject to public consultation prior to the introduction of the BSB Handbook but to date have not been implemented.
“The proposals were intended to restrict the time such findings are made publicly available and the wider changes will be taken forward within this business year.”