Annual report shows complaints about conduct rose significantly from April 2021 to March 2022
The Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) annual Regulatory Decision-making report has revealed a 54% rise in complaints against barristers.
The report revealed there were 2,517 reports about the conduct of barristers from April 2021 to March 2022. Cases which involved social media and expression of opinion rose even more, leaping from 49 to 89 from the previous year. In addition to this, the number of referrals that were accepted for investigation rose from 128 to 164. The number of disbarments also increased from four to six, however, the number of suspensions declined from nine to seven. It was also found that there was a surge in reports of misconduct relating to “conduct at work but not in relation to the provision of legal services”. This included conduct in chambers. These misconduct cases rose by 131 on the previous year.
The regulator revealed the area of law responsible for the most cases remained family law, with an increase in cases relating to criminal law and employment law.
The BSB said it “struggled to hit timeliness performance standards” throughout the period from April 2021 to March 2022. A statement read:
“Performance in delivering our enforcement work is not where we would like it to be. The volume and complexity of investigation cases has increased, and, although the quality of our decision-making has remained high, we have struggled to keep pace with this. The result is slower performance against the timeliness service standards across all stages of the enforcement process.”
The regulator said it had take steps to address this including increasing staff headcount, however this did not fully materialise in 2021/22 due to “recruitment issues”.