The Bar Standards Board said it is reviewing its sanction guidance amid claims that barristers found to have committed sexual misconduct are treated too leniently.

At a media briefing, the regulator said guidance is currently under review and it is considering the ‘whole range of sanctions’ for professional misconduct, alongside the Bar Tribunal and Adjudication Services (BTAS).

The BSB also said it has developed a project looking at bullying, discrimination and harassment to find out ‘how we can manage these things better at the bar’.

In a statement, BTAS and the BSB said: ‘The Bar Tribunals Adjudication Service and the Bar Standards Board are aware of current concern from the public and the profession at the level of sanctions imposed in cases of sexual misconduct. The sanctions imposed fall within the current sanctions guidance.

‘This guidance covers the whole range of professional misconduct and has been under review since last year. Proposals from the review will be published and subject to consultation with a view to having updated guidance in place in the summer.’

According to a new diversity report published by the BSB, the profession became increasingly diverse in 2020. However, at 61%, men still outnumber women at the practising bar. In the senior ranks, 17% of QCs are female and since December 2015 there has been a net addition of 131 male QCs compared to 103 female QCs.

The proportion of female and male pupils as of December 2020 was 50:50 and the BSB reported the highest proportion of pupils from minority ethnic backgrounds since reports began in 2015.

On the socio-economic background of barristers, the report shows that barristers who attended private schools are still over-represented. 'The figures show that even if all of the barristers who chose not to respond had gone to state schools, the proportion of barristers who went to independent schools would be higher than in the wider population: 18.1% of the bar (including non-respondents) attended an independent school between 11-18, compared to approximately 7% of school children in England at any age.