The Bar Standards Board has outlined a move towards solicitor firm-style outcomes-focused regulation, in a consultation which also proposes the immediate suspension of some barristers facing disciplinary action.
In papers published this week, the BSB sets out its aim to introduce a single handbook of rules, incorporating an amended and simplified Code of Conduct applying to all barristers, BSB-regulated entities and those who work in such entities.
Patricia Robertson QC, chair of the BSB’s entity regulation working group, said the consultation is a ‘key milestone’ for the bar that will have ‘far-reaching’ results.
The new version of the code will move in the direction of outcomes-focused regulation, but retain an element of prescription. The BSB is set to introduce a new risk-based approach to supervision and enforcement, focusing on the greatest areas of risk.
Regulatory issues will be resolved through an enhanced use of supervision and monitoring to promote compliance, with only more serious breaches being dealt with by way of disciplinary action.
The BSB is also seeking to strengthen its disciplinary mechanisms. They include: broadening the grounds for interim suspension and introducing immediate suspension in exceptional cases; and applying the civil standard of proof to administrative action, increasing available sanctions from £300 to £3,000 for individuals and to £5,000 for businesses.
The BSB proposes that it should continue to prohibit barristers from holding client money, but says it will consider authorising a third party to provide an escrow facility for self-employed barristers and BSB-regulated entities.