A single chambers accounted for more than one in 10 of all new complaints to the Bar Standards Board last year, the regulator revealed today.
In its annual report for 2015/16, the BSB said two barristers from the unnamed chambers had 48 cases opened against them. In total 433 new complaints opened during the year.
The chambers in question also accounted for 77% of the 46 referrals from the Legal Ombudsman, after accounting for 70% of ombudsman referrals in 2014/15.
‘For consecutive years one chambers has had a significant impact on our statistics in this area,’ the BSB stated.
‘Due to the effect of ongoing enforcement action one of the barristers’ ability to practise has been restricted. This should result in a diminishing number of referrals next year from the Legal Ombudsman.’
Overall caseload, which rose in 2014/15, decreased in 2015/16 from 311 complaints at the start of the year to 246 at the close of the year, the report states. The total number of new complaints decreased by 2%.
Civil litigants were the source of one-fifth of individual complaints, with criminal law litigants and solicitors the next most likely group to complain about barristers.
The most common allegations in the external complaints received in 2015/16 were failing to cooperate with the ombudsman (17%) and discreditable or dishonest conduct (18%).
The number of complaints with allegations of discrimination has fallen since 2012, from 26 to 15.
The BSB said it takes these complaints ‘very seriously’ but admitted that in many cases allegations are unsubstantiated, meaning that enforcement action cannot be considered. To date the regulator has closed 11 of the 15 cases without taking any enforcement action.
In total, 42 complaints were heard before a disciplinary tribunal panel in 2015/16, of which 35 saw one or more charges proved.
Four were dismissed as not serious enough to warrant a finding of professional misconduct. Seven disbarments were ordered during the year, a fall from 13 in 2014/15.
More than half of tribunal hearings resulted in a fine for the barrister.