The Legal Services Board (LSB) was on the verge of issuing an unprecedented public censure of the Bar Council over its interference with the independence of the Bar Standards Board (BSB), new papers have revealed.
They show that the LSB was going to censure the Bar Council because it initially refused to accept the highly critical findings of the board’s investigation into changes made to the cab-rank rule last year as part of the new standard contractual terms.
The LSB’s October meeting was told that the Bar Council’s denial suggested “a failure to appreciate the seriousness both of the findings and of the underlying legal obligations which the IGRs [internal governance rules] are in place to ensure”.
Neither the Bar Council nor BSB have made any substantive statements about the matter since they eventually warded off the threat by accepting the findings and providing various undertakings, meaning the matter was resolved informally.
However, the LSB has published a letter it received from BSB director Dr Vanessa Davies – agreed by the Bar Council – ahead of the October meeting. This shows that they strongly contested the allegation of Bar Council interference. “The BSB is wholly satisfied that all decisions it took in relation to the development of its standard contractual terms, and their inclusion in our regulatory arrangements, from 2009 onwards, were made independently of the Bar Council,” she wrote.
However, she said the BSB accepted that the investigation identified “a need to reinforce to staff both in the Bar Council and in the BSB that they must observe clear boundaries between areas of regulatory and representative activity”. An LSB analysis of the letter said this “appears to be directing blame towards staff as opposed to [BSB] board members”.
The papers also reveal that had the Bar Council not accepted the findings, the LSB was also set to issue a direction that would have forced on it the measures that it has now undertaken to introduce.
See blog: Brothers in arms?