The Bar Standards Board has commissioned a review of its professional conduct complaints processes, to examine if there is any bias in the way that black and minority ethnic (BME) barristers are treated.

The move follows an internal report that showed BME barristers were over-represented in the complaints process.

Last year, the Solicitors Regulation Authority announced a similar review of its processes by Professor Gus John, after the Society of Black Lawyers accused it of ‘institutional racism’.

The BSB’s review will be carried out by independent agency Inclusive Employers, between February and April. Its report, along with recommendations for action, will be presented to the board in September.

The report which sparked the review, covering the period 2007-2011, found that BME barristers are more likely than white barristers to have external complaints referred for disciplinary action; and also more likely to have complaints against them upheld.

BSB director Dr Vanessa Davies said: ‘Our complaints statistics suggested that some groups had more complaints made against them in the system.

‘While the findings of our report are clear, the causes of the over-representation are not. The first step is to take a fresh look internally at our complaints processes to ensure there is no unconscious bias operating.’

She said: ‘The board is keen to ensure there is no possibility of unequal treatment which is why we have commissioned a closer methodical investigation.’