Pupil barrister fined for f-word outbursts during online exam

Online exam: Student had not read the briefing material properly

A pupil barrister has been fined £500 for a series of foul-mouthed outbursts at a remote invigilator during an online ethics exam, which ended with him raising his middle finger to the camera.

Jack Henry Sadler, who answered work emails during the exam, revealing lawyer and client names, said he “did not realise that his words and actions could be heard and were being recorded”.

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has concluded its investigation with a determination by consent – a settlement agreement.

Its report of the agreement recorded that, before his professional ethics assessment in July 2023, Mr Sadler was asked to show the remote proctor his desk and surrounding area, ensure that his phone was on silent and that he was not wearing a watch.

Mr Sadler admitted making comments during the exam, which included:

  • “What is a watch going to do, how the fuck am I going to cheat with a watch, come on”;
  • “What? Fucking piss off, I don’t need to start a fucking chat”;
  • “Fucking finally, a criminal question… This civil shit… How can you have any ethics if you’re a civil practitioner, honestly”;
  • “I’m so fucking bored of this”;
  • “You’re going to kick up a fuss about me having a fucking ibuprofen aren’t you.”

During the exam, the proctor sent a message to Mr Sadler warning him that accessing work emails was not permitted.

In the recording, Mr Sadler can be heard to say: “Don’t worry I’m not cheating, this is the middle of a work day, I have work to do.”

The BSB said that, “in line with the usual processes”, the activity on Mr Sadler’s computer screen was recorded during the exam.

“The recording shows the inbox for his work e-mail account being accessed. Emails received into that inbox are visible and show the sender of the emails and names which are in the title of the emails.

“Mr Sadler clicked into two of the emails which are from solicitors’ firms. The emails related to matters in which Mr Sadler was instructed and contained client names.

“At the conclusion of the recording and the exam, Mr Sadler can be seen to hold up his middle finger to the camera.”

Mr Sadler began his pupillage in October 2022 and was in his second six months at the time of the ethics exam, a centralised assessment which is part of completing pupillage.

The exam can either be taken at a test centre with invigilators present or using an online proctoring system, during which they are monitored in real time via their webcam and microphone.

Video and sound recordings are made of the candidate, their workspace and their computer screen while conducting the exam. The proctor invigilating the exam and the candidate are able to communicate through messages via online chat.

Mr Sadler was charged with diminishing public trust and confidence and of failing to protect client confidentiality, by accessing work emails.

He accepted “each of the charges on the facts”, but in mitigation said he “did not realise that his words and actions could be heard and were being recorded”.

He failed to read the briefing material thoroughly before sitting the exam and did not think that accessing his work email would risk a breach.

“Mr Sadler invites that his behaviour is viewed as a catastrophic lapse in judgment, for which he is deeply ashamed and deeply sorry, and not as anything more insidious.”

An independent disciplinary panel found that Mr Sadler’s misconduct “fell within the lower range of culpability and harm” because “it was not obvious to the panel” that he was intentionally directing his comments to the proctor, although he “clearly should have been aware that they could be heard and were highly likely to cause offence to the proctor”.

On client confidentiality, the panel found that there was “no evidence of harm caused to any clients” and the pupil barrister closed his work email as soon as he was asked to.

The panel noted that Mr Sadler had “left the Bar and had gained other employment” and said it was “mindful that, as a recent pupil and someone in the early stages of his career”, he was likely to have limited means, hence the £500 fine.

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