An increase in litigants in person has been cited as the reason for a sharp spike in complaints against barristers, alleging discrimination.
The Bar Standards Board yesterday heard there were eight complaints in the first quarter of 2012/13, compared to just nine in the whole of last year. In total, the BSB received 79 new complaints from external sources, with the most common allegations made in complaints classified as discreditable or dishonest conduct and misleading the court.
Solicitors and barristers have long warned that legal aid cuts will mean an increase in litigants in person and burden the court system. BSB board member Simon Lofthouse QC said this increase was now feeding in to complaint numbers.
‘It is an increasing aspect of practising in this country that people appearing in court are not represented,’ he said. ‘As a result there is a lack of understanding of the court’s process and the role of the barrister. This creates misunderstanding and quite often results in complaints – almost invariably uninformed and 95% of which are dismissed.’
BSB chair Baroness Deech said government needs to understand that removing legal aid will only lead to further problems. More than 40% of complaints were concluded or referred to an investigation within one month, with 61.5% resolved within six months.