The number of complaints about barristers’ conduct rose by nearly one third in the past year – though the number of disbarments has fallen. According to the annual report of the Bar Standards Board (BSB), 475 complaints about barristers were opened in the year ending 30 April, up from 366 the year before; 84% were concluded or referred to disciplinary action.
However, of the 475, just 7% (34) resulted in disciplinary findings. Six individuals were disbarred and a further eight were suspended with the rest receiving a reprimand or fine. In 2016/17, 52 barristers had disciplinary findings made against them with 19 disbarments and five suspensions.
Earlier this month the BSB agreed to drop a one-year time limit within which complaints must be brought. The regulator said the limit has ‘not been used for many years’ and is potentially a barrier preventing the public from presenting information.
Elsewhere in the report, the BSB confirmed a low take-up of alternative business structures – just eight in the year since it was approved as a licensing authority.
Looking ahead, the BSB says it wants to help the public understand the difference between a fully qualified, regulated and insured barrister and a McKenzie friend. ‘We will encourage the profession to cooperate more closely with solicitors and other legal professionals where that may offer advantages for the public,’ it adds.
In 2016, the judiciary proposed banning fee recovery by McKenzie friends and recommended that unqualified advisers sign up to a code of conduct. However, those plans have since gone back to the drawing board.