The Bar Standards Board has challenged just two tribunal judgments in the past five years, a fraction of the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s annual count of appealing decisions, the Gazette can reveal. In one instance, it failed to overturn a decision that a barrister who received a suspended prison sentence of nine months should only be reprimanded.
The figures will add to the debate about the contrasting treatment of barristers and solicitors when they breach conduct rules.
According to annual reports, the BSB has appealed two decisions by the Bar Tribunal and Adjudication Service (BTAS) for undue leniency since 2015. In one case, the regulator challenged a sanction relating to a barrister over six counts of breaching a restraining order, which resulted in the suspended prison sentence.
The respondent received a reprimand in 2017 after the tribunal took into account his ‘admission of the professional misconduct charges, his positive personal references and… his agreement to voluntarily suspend himself from practice’. The BSB’s appeal was unsuccessful.
An attempt by the regulator to cross-appeal on the basis of an unduly lenient sentence in 2016 was also unsuccessful.
In the past month, two barristers have received brief suspensions after being convicted of assault. Stephen Joseph Sweeney, admitted in 2001, received a four-month suspension after being convicted of assaulting a woman by beating her and failing to surrender to custody when required to do so. Rashid Ahmed, admitted in 2003, was suspended for three months after being convicted of common assault by beating.
When asked whether it plans to appeal the Sweeney decision, the BSB said: ‘Sentences imposed by the Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Service are a matter for the tribunal having regard to the facts of the individual case and the
BTAS sanctions guidance which is endorsed by the Council of the Inns of Court. It is not our usual practice to comment as to whether we intend to appeal.’
In 2017/18, the Solicitors Regulation Authority appealed nine decisions of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. Seven of these were successful.