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BSB enforcement report shows improvements with disciplinary action doubling as body appoints new board members

With the Bar having long been slower to change in a post-Legal Services Act environment compared to its solicitor counterpart, its regulator, the Bar Standards Board, has published its annual report on the body’s enforcement activities noting improved performance. The barristers’ regulator has further shaken up its governance and appointed three new board members.

The latest report on the BSB’s professional conduct committee and professional conduct department shows an increase in the number of barristers being disbarred or suspended with 19 individual barristers disbarred in the last year, while the number of cases that led to suspension increased from eight to 20 during the same period.

The most common allegations made were for discreditable or dishonest conduct (50%) followed by allegations of misleading the court. The amount of complaints received by the BSB from external sources totalled 300, and almost a third (31%) came from civil litigants.

It further noted that the percentage of cases being concluded or referred to disciplinary action within the agreed service standards increased to 77% in 2013/14 from 64% last year.

Last summer, the body made concerted efforts to modernise its conduct rules and heralded much reform, including allowing barristers to apply for an extension to their practicing certificate to conduct litigation, a move that increased the scope for barrister chambers to act more like disputes businesses and level the playing field with solicitor firms.

In a statement the body said the improved figures come as it adopts a more ‘outcomes-focused, risk-based approach to enforcement activities’.

It added: ‘The switch is a key move towards smarter regulation, seeing attention focused on the most serious complaints of potential professional misconduct’.

The number of barristers investigated for failure to comply with Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements fell significantly to 408 in 2013/14 from 491 – a drop the body attributed to changes in the way it monitors CPD compliance.

More recently, the regulator has also refreshed its board with the appointment of three new members including 33 Chancery Lane’s Andrew Mitchell QC, Littleton Chambers’ Adam Solomon and Serle Court chief executive Nicola Sawford. Due to take up their positions in 2015, those appointed were selected following a ‘rigorous recruitment process’ undertaken by an independent appointments panel.

It appointed Sir Andrew Burns KCMG as its new chair with effect from 1 January 2015 in July. Due to serve an initial term for three years, Burns will succeed Baroness Ruth Deech QC whose maximum six year term ends in December.