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Closer scrutiny for the Bar as BSB introduces tougher supervision measures

Undeterred by the Bar’s reaction to its recent grading scheme for criminal advocates, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) today (5 October) announced new, more rigorous supervision arrangements for Chambers, aimed at curbing ‘ineffective governance and inadequate pupillage training.’

From January 2014, all Chambers will be required to participate in the new process, which will see the BSB assess how efficiently sets and sole practitioners are managing potential risks, while those identified as ‘high risk’ will be targeted by the BSB for remedial measures.

The new strategy, which promises a light touch and little interaction for Chambers that manage their risk effectively, will replace the existing Chambers Monitoring System, under which sets across England and Wales were contacted and asked to verify their compliance with complaints handling requirements and money laundering regulations.

Today’s announcement from the BSB said: ‘Well-run chambers, which set out and comply with clear policies on matters such as complaints handling and pupillage training, will gain a low risk rating and will have little contact with the BSB. This means that resources will be concentrated on those who need it most.’

From next spring, Chambers will also receive an impact audit survey designed to assess the impact on the public and consumers of any potential breach of regulatory rules.

The five primary risks that Chambers will be assessed on include ineffective governance; provision of poor client service; insufficient consideration of equality and diversity in administration or service delivery; inadequate or unfair pupillage or training; and incompetent or dishonest financial management.

The BSB’s head of quality, Oliver Hanmer, said the regulatory body is looking to take a more preventative stance.

‘We all know that prevention is better than cure. This new approach is about smarter regulation for the Bar and better protection for the public. Working with us to prevent potential risks materialising will mean minimising the amount of supervision Chambers receive, and a more targeted use of resources on our part.’

The move comes as elsewhere the BSB faces controversy over its introduction this year of the highly unpopular Quality Assurance Scheme for Advocates, under which criminal barristers must obtain accreditation that will determine the complexity of the trial they can take on. The QASA is currently the subject of a judicial review.