The number of barristers disbarred or suspended almost doubled in the past year, according to latest figures from the Bar Standards Board.

Nineteen barristers were disbarred in 2013/14, in 23 cases - up from 13 the year before - the regulator said. The number of barristers suspended from practice rose from eight to 20.

Overall the number of complaints about barristers fell from 491 in 2012/13 to 408 in 2013/14, largely due to the shift in regulatory focus by the BSB and a change in the way CPD compliance is monitored.

Over the year the BSB received 300 external complaints - from members of the public, solicitors, or other professions and organisations. The most common complaints related to discreditable or dishonest conduct (50%), followed by allegations of misleading the court (33%).

The BSB itself raised 108 complaints, 40 of which concerned working without a practising certificate.

Sara Jagger, director of professional conduct, said: ‘Focusing our resources where they are most needed and best used is helping us to conclude cases more quickly. The increase in the number of disbarments and suspensions shows that we are identifying and taking appropriate action against those barristers who pose the greatest risk to the public. It indicates that a targeted and robust system of enforcement is in place.’

Meanwhile, the BSB’s independent observer Isobel Leaviss reported that the decisions of the professional conduct department, which deals with complaints about professional misconduct by barristers, are ‘fair, consistent and well-reasoned’. 

However, Leaviss set out a number of recommendations for improvement, noting that ‘much more could be done to promote wider understanding among the profession and consumers of legal services of the BSB’s enforcement role’ and that a project to improve the website ‘must be given the resourcing and priority it deserves in order to achieve greater transparency and accessibility’.

Welcoming the report, the BSB director Vanessa Davies said the regulator had accepted all the recommendations and has already implemented many.