The Legal Services Board (LSB) has granted permission for the bar regulator to change the standard of proof applied in disciplinary proceedings, a move which could make it easier for barristers to be sanctioned.
In a statement today, LSB chief executive Neil Buckley said: ‘We have agreed a rule change application from the BSB, which brings their approach on assessing professional misconduct into line with that adopted by other professional regulators.’
In November last year, the BSB agreed to lower the standard of proof, pending LSB approval, downgrading it from the criminal standard to the civil standard.
Currently the BSB and the cases it brings before the Bar Tribunal and Adjudication Service, rely on the criminal standard of proof; whereby wrongdoing has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt. Under the new standard, cases will be determined on the balance of probabilities.
The change will come into force from March next year.
At the time it agreed to the change the BSB stressed that only cases that come to the tribunal after the agreed implementation date will be tried under the new standard, meaning there would be a ‘crossover period’ under which both standards would be applied.
As it stands the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal operates the criminal standard as well but a consultation on shifting to the civil standard closed this week.