Regulator to widen powers for interim suspensions of barristers

Vineall: Proportionate action

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) to press ahead with new powers for interim suspensions where necessary to protection the public or the public interest.

The regulator said it had “identified gaps” in the ability of disciplinary tribunals to impose interim restrictions on a barristers following a finding of misconduct but before sanction and its own ability to refer barristers to independent panels to consider interim suspension.

The BSB can currently refer a barrister to an independent interim suspension panel ahead of disciplinary proceedings where they have been convicted of, or charged with, a criminal offence, been suspended by another legal regulator, been intervened into by the BSB or where it is necessary to protect the interests of clients.

But it does not extend to circumstances “where it is necessary for the protection of the public or public interest”.

The BSB said this absence was “a concern” because, although it was rare, “there will be circumstances where there is a risk to the public of a barrister continuing to practise due to alleged or confirmed misconduct”.

These cases could involve sexual misconduct, discrimination, harassment, and dishonesty.

Following a consultation this summer, the BSB said it also would seek to amend its disciplinary tribunal regulations to introduce new powers for tribunals to impose interim restrictions on a barrister’s ability to practise following a finding of misconduct, but pending a decision on sanction, where it was in the public interest.

There were only four respondents to the consultation – the Bar Council, the Legal Services Consumer Panel and two individual barristers – who agreed with the need for the changes.

The regulator said that, subject to approval by the Legal Services Board, the rule changes would come into force in the New Year.

Nick Vineall KC, chair of the Bar Council, said the rule changes provided for “proportionate action to be taken by the BSB to protect the public”, as well as protecting the reputation of the profession.

“Suspension is a severe measure, so it is important that there is close monitoring of data and disparate outcomes by the BSB to ensure suspensions are applied appropriately and in a non-discriminatory way. It also underlines the vital importance of all cases being dealt with in a timely manner.”

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