The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has said it wants to shake up how it deals with information it receives from third parties about barristers and chambers, including abandoning the term ‘complaints’.
In a consultation paper published today the barristers’ regulator says that instead of ’complaints’ it will instead ’treat all incoming information about the profession as just that -“information”- irrespective of whether or not it may require regulatory action'.
The proposals are the final phase of the governance reform outlined in its 2016-19 strategic plan, the BSB said.
The consulation proposes the creation of a Centralised Assessment Team (CAT), which would replace the current initial assessment functions performed by the regulator’s Professional Conduct Department and the Supervision Team. The CAT would act as the single point of contact for all unprompted information, including concerns raised about chambers, individual barristers and education providers.
’This change in approach will allow the CAT to process all information received in the same way using the same assessment tests. In doing so we hope to create a more transparent and positive relationship with the public as well as manage expectations more effectively,’ the BSB said.
It added: ’Our continued use of complaints terminology has proved confusing for the public and creates inaccurate expectations that our remit includes resolution of their personal concerns.’
The BSB also said it is considering establishing a new Independent Decision-Making Body (IDB). The new IDB would consist of a pool of 30 lay and barrister members from which panels of three or more will be nominated to take individual regulatory decisions. If plans are approved, the IDB would replace the BSB’s Professional Conduct Committee (PCC), which currently consists of 32 lay and barrister members, divided into two teams.
Vanessa Davies, the BSB’s director-general, said the proposals ‘are a major and final component of our modernisation of the BSB in the public interest.’
‘It is important that we deal with information we receive and take individual regulatory decisions as consistently and efficiently as possible, while continuing to ensure that the decisions we make are the right ones. We think that today’s proposals reflect this balance and we want to know what barristers and other interested parties think.’
The consultation is open until 31 May.