Bar Standards Board in a "shambolic state"
20 July 2012
The Bar Standards Board has been given a thorough drubbing on Radio 4 this week, with barristers accusing it of a "lack of transparency
" and "lazy incompetence
". And a procedural cock-up could render hundreds of barrister convictions unsafe.
On Tuesday the Today programme aired a seven minute report
during which several barristers accused the BSB of secrecy and maladministration. Complaints included not
keeping minutes of internal discussions and failing to release
internal disciplinary reports. Marc Beaumont, who makes his crust
defending barristers in these kinds of proceedings, slammed the BSB as
being "in a shambolic state
Several barristers also spoke of the difficulties they had discovering the identity of their "sponsoring barrister" (the person appointed by the BSB to analyse the case against them and make recommendations). Jonathan Rich, who faced complaints from the RSPCA, eventually discovered that his sponsoring barrister had acted for the RSPCA several times. According to the BSB the decision to take disciplinary action is a collective one and the sponsoring barrister can't make any unilateral decisions. But Rich's case still looks distinctly like a conflict of interest.
||The BSB this week (an artist's impression) |
Unfortunately for the BSB, the allegations didn't stop there. Barristers claimed that many of the judges who sit on the disciplinary tribunals, appointed by the Counsel of the Inns of Court, were not properly appointed as their terms of appointment had expired. Ooops. The BSB claims that the rulings in the 520 cases affected should be valid, as a High Court judge has recently ruled
in one case that a tribunal was properly constituted despite a judge's appointment having expired. But the Today programme suggested that hundreds of convictions could still be ruled unsafe.
And to add to the impression of omnishambles there were reports that further complaints could be raised in relation possible conflicts of interest for disciplinary panel judges. All in all, not a great week for the BSB.
UPDATE: Baronee Deech was on the Today programme this morning defending the BSB against the criticisms (from 2 hours 36