A barrister who withdrew £2,000 from a lay client’s bank account without permission or warning, and also failed to co-operate with both the Bar Standards Board and Legal Ombudsman over complaints against him, has been suspended for three months.
A Bar Disciplinary Tribunal found that Stephen Supple was acting for Graham Phillips on a direct access basis but, after taking £1,978 from his bank account by direct debit, failed to explain to his client why he had done this or respond to requests to return the money.
The tribunal said Mr Supple would have been entitled to some payment for the work he had carried out, but he acted inappropriately and unprofessionally, in a manner likely to diminish public confidence in the profession.
He received three suspensions of one month and two suspensions of three months for the five charges against him, to run concurrently. He was also prohibited from undertaking public access work for 12 months.
Sara Jagger, the BSB’s director of professional conduct, said: “The public has a right to expect members of the Bar to act competently and professionally. By mishandling the client’s monies and then not cooperating with the regulators during the investigation, Mr Supple failed in his obligations.
“The tribunal’s order sends a clear message that unprofessional conduct which diminishes the public’s confidence in the Bar has consequences.”
Direct access barristers are starting to crop up in disciplinary cases more frequently, such as Oliver White, who twice handled client money when he should not have done, and Tariq Rehman, who was ‘named and shamed’ by the Legal Ombudsman for the number of complaints arising from his direct access immigration work.