Hundreds more complaints about barristers were made over the last year, the regulator has revealed, with 'dramatic increases' in reports alleging inappropriate social media use. In the period April 2020 to March 2021, the Bar Standards Board received 1,887 complaints, up by 29% from 1,460 the previous year.
One aspect related to inappropriate content on social media, which had seen 'dramatic increases' in reports received. Over the past five years, the number of cases increased from just two in 2016/17, to 49 in 2020/21.
According to the report only around 20% of reports result in investigations. Last year, 11 investigations related to inappropriate use of social media rose, up from six the previous year.
Examples of cases investigated included comments that were considered to be discriminatory and using Twitter to 'gratuitously insult others'. There was also one case of an unregistered barrister holding out as practising on Twitter.
Investigation into reports about harassment also saw a 'substantial increase' according to the regulator. Although the numbers remain low, allegations relating to harassment more than doubled from four to 10 cases, which the report suggests could indicate an increased willingness to raise concerns with the regulator about it.
The largest percentage of work-related complaints related to family law, accounting for 6.5 per cent of reports, followed by crime, which concerned 2.9 per cent of cases. Both were down on the previous years, which the report attributed to the impact of Covid.
Among a profession of around 16,500, only four barristers were disbarred, compared with 10 in 2019-20, four in 2018-19, and five in 2017-18. Nine barristers were suspended in 2020-21, down from 15 in 2019-20.