Bar regulator consults on reforms to the disciplinary tribunal system
In an open consultation, launched today, the bar regulator is seeking views on proposals to reform the disciplinary tribunal system.
The Disciplinary Tribunal Regulations (found at Part 5B of the BSB Handbook) set out the powers and functions of Disciplinary Tribunals who are responsible for deciding whether a barrister (or a BSB-authorised entity) has committed professional misconduct.
The Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) Professional Conduct Department has recently undertaken a review of the Disciplinary Tribunal Regulations, and produced a revised set of Regulations.
A consultation paper, summarising and explaining the proposed revisions, has been published along with the proposed revised Regulations.
Some of the proposed revisions include:
- · Modernising terminology (for example, replacing the term “defendant” with “respondent”)
- · Setting out more clearly the procedure to be followed at hearings and including robust rules for the treatment of witnesses and vulnerable witnesses
- · Reducing the Inns of Court’s role in the disciplinary system, except in relation to disbarments
- · Addressing potential gaps in the Disciplinary Tribunal powers
- · Extending, in the public interest, the regulator’s ability to appeal the outcome of disciplinary tribunals
- · Limiting the costs that can be claimed by barristers who represent themselves at Tribunals
We are also taking this opportunity to seek views on wider issues which in the longer term may result in further changes to the system. These include:
- · Introducing measures to mitigate costs to the BSB of the disciplinary system, which is otherwise funded by the practising certificate fee
- · Replacing all five-person tribunals panels with three-person panels
- · Proposing that decisions to readmit barristers disbarred for disciplinary reasons are taken by the regulator and not the Inns of Court, as is the current arrangement
We welcome a wide range responses from consumers of legal services, members of the Bar, and anyone involved in disciplinary systems.
The BSB’s Director of Professional Conduct Sara Jagger said: “Fairness, transparency and efficiency have been central to this review. We are committed to modernising and streamlining our disciplinary processes; ensuring that they operate as fairly and as efficiently as possible, for the benefit of all concerned.”
Anyone interested in contributing to the consultation should send their response to Siân Mayhew, at SMayhew@BarStandardsBoard.org.uk. Responses can also be provided by phone with prior arrangement (please call 0207 611 1444).
The BSB will also be holding a series of workshops for anyone interested in feeding back their views on the proposed changes in an open forum. The workshops, starting at 5.30pm, will be held at the BSB’s offices on:
- · Monday 21 September; and/or
- · Thursday 1 October.
To register your interest in attending one of these workshops, please contact Siân Mayhew (using the contact details above).
The consultation closes on 12 October 2015.
What to do if you’re involved in a workplace accident
While statistics from the Health and Safety Executive suggest that Britain one of the safest places to work in Europe[i], a high number of workers are still facing work-related injuries or being made ill by work.
According to the study, around 1.2 million people suffered from a work-related illness or injury in 2013/2014, and around 28.2 million working days were lost as a result.
Not all of these were physical, a reported 9.8 million working days were lost due to mental health problems such as stress.
With nearly 78,000 injuries to employees reported under RIDDOR – Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations – the rate of injury works out at around 300 injuries per 100,000 employees.
133 of these injuries were reported to be fatal, while this shows a fall from 150 people in the previous year, behind every number there’s a harsh reminder of the people who lost their lives doing their day-to-day job.
Due to the past fluctuations in workplace accidents, it’s hard to predict what will happen in 2015/2016, but here’s what to do if you’ve had a workplace accident:
Any injury at work should be reported. Your employee should keep an accident book where all incidents are logged and recorded.
This is mainly for the benefit of the employee’s if they need to refer to the book for compensation or sickness purposes.
However, recording incidents also helps your employer determine what changes they may need to make in the workplace be it health and safety or otherwise.
If your workplace doesn’t have an accident book. You should write out a brief description of the incident and the injuries caused then send them to your employer, keeping a record for yourself.
In the majority of cases, if you’ve had to have time off due to a work-related injury you will be entitled to Statutory Sick Pay[ii].
However, it’s worth checking with your employer as they may have a different scheme in place, paying more for time off if you’ve had your injury at work.
If you feel as though your employer was at fault for your accident, you may be able to claim compensation. There are several ways of attaining compensation depending on the severity and circumstances of your injury.
If you want to take legal action to claim for compensation, you will need to get advice from a specialised solicitor which must be done as soon as possible due to strict guidelines on making legal claims.
If you have sustained a personal injury, you may be able to claim for two different types of compensation: general damages and special damages – both of which will need legal action.
General damage compensation is paid through injury – for example pain and suffering and loss of future earnings as a result.
Special damages are paid for actual financial loss caused by the accident up to the date of the hearing. These can include damage to clothing and belongings, the cost of care and travel.
Over the past 40 years, working conditions have improved greatly due to the introduction of Health and Safety at Work etc Act, which was initially introduced in 1974. Figures show the annual death rate fall from 600 in 1975, to less than 150 in 2014.
If you’ve been injured in a workplace accident it’s wise to take action as quickly as you can. Talk to a qualified legal representative who will be able to advise if you’re eligible for compensation.
New sentencing guidelines proposed for corporate manslaughter, health and safety and food safety offences.
The Sentencing Council has published proposed guidelines for judges and magistrates to use when dealing with corporate manslaughter, health and safety and food safety and hygiene offences for open consultation. The Council is seeking views on its proposals and is keen to receive feedback from people working in the criminal justice system or regulatory enforcement bodies as well as industry,
The draft guidelines cover offences that embrace a wide range of circumstances. The type of offenders that may commit these offences varies greatly and, with the exception of corporate manslaughter, there may not be a victim but there is still a broad spectrum of seriousness encompassed within each offence. The proposals seek to provide sufficient guidance to courts to promote a consistent approach to sentencing throughout England and Wales, combined with flexibility to ensure sentences are fair and proportionate to the seriousness of the case and the circumstances of the offender.
The guidelines are being introduced due to a lack of comprehensive guidance for sentencers in relation to these offences. While there is a guideline covering corporate manslaughter and fatal health and safety offences, there is only some general guidance in the Magistrates’ Court Sentencing Guidelines and Court of Appeal authorities setting out general principles of sentencing for offences where there has not been a fatality. There is very little specific guidance for sentencing food safety offences and the courts will usually have to extract applicable principles from sentencing in cases involving health and safety and environmental offences. Existing guidance only covers offences committed by organisations rather than individuals.
Equally, these offences are not sentenced as frequently as other criminal offences, so the Council found that sentencers were not always familiar with how to deal with them. In 2013, approximately 420 offenders were sentenced for the health and safety offences covered by the draft guidelines, and approximately 280 offenders were sentenced for the food offences. It is evident that the offences covered by the guideline differ in a number of respects from the criminal offences more commonly seen by the courts and advocates will need to be able to assist the court with the concepts involved. However, the broad aims of sentencing are the same as for any other criminal offence.
The Council has therefore concluded that there is a need for expanded guidance on dealing with difficult issues that arise in these cases, such as those relating to the risk of harm, identifying appropriate fine levels for organisations, or fining offenders that are charitable or public bodies.
The review of these guidelines is also taking place in part due to concerns that some sentences imposed for these offences have been too low, particularly in relation to large organisations convicted of the most serious health and safety and food safety offences. The Council is therefore proposing to increase sentence levels in such situations. This will ensure sentences that are proportionate to the seriousness of the offence while, as required by law, taking account of the financial circumstances of the offender. It is proposed that an offending organisation’s means will initially be based on its turnover as this is a clear indicator that can be easily assessed and is less susceptible to manipulation than other accounting methods. However, the guideline also requires the court to consider the organisation’s wider financial circumstances to ensure that fines can be properly and fairly assessed.
The Council’s aim is to help ensure sentences that not only punish the offender, but deter them and others from committing these crimes by removing any financial benefit they may have had from offending. These offences can result in organisations that maintain proper standards being undercut by offending businesses who are often motivated by saving money at the expense of safety.
Sentencing levels in relation to lower level offences are unlikely to change. This is because they are seen as already proportionate, and because fines must be based on the financial circumstances of the offender.
Sentencing Council member Michael Caplan QC said:
“We want to ensure that these crimes don’t pay. They can have extremely serious consequences and businesses that put people at risk by flouting their responsibilities are undercutting those that maintain proper standards and do their best to keep people safe.
“Our proposals will help ensure a consistent approach to sentencing, allowing fair and proportionate sentences across the board, with some of the most serious offenders facing tougher penalties.
“This is a consultation: we are interested in hearing feedback on our proposals so we can develop sentences which people understand and have confidence in.”
The consultation is available on-line and is divided into offence specific sections and respondents should feel free to comment only on sections of interest or relevance to them. A list of respondents will be published in the Sentencing Council’s response paper following the consultation. If respondents do not want their names to appear on the list, they should state this clearly in order for their response to be recorded as confidential.
The guidelines will cover sentencing for the following offences: Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013, regulation 19(1); Food Hygiene (Wales) Regulations 2006, regulation 17(1); The General Food Regulations 2004, regulation 4; Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA); section 33(1)(a) in relation to breaches of section 2, section 3 and section 7; and section 33(1)(c); and Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, section 1.
For more information on the Sentencing Council, to view the proposed guidelines and submit your feedback go to the website. (http://sentencingcouncil.judiciary.gov.uk) The consultation closes 18 February 2015.
1. The consultation runs from 13 November 2014 until 18 February 2015. Responses can be made online at www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk, by email to email@example.com or by post to:
Office of the Sentencing Council
Royal Courts of Justice
The consultation is accompanied by a resource assessment and an equality impact assessment which can be found at www.sentencingcouncil.org.uk. Following the consultation, a response will be published on the Council’s website.
2. The guideline covers the following offences:
- Food Safety and Hygiene (England) Regulations 2013, regulation 19(1)
- Food Hygiene (Wales) Regulations 2006, regulation 17(1)
- The General Food Regulations 2004, regulation 4
- Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 (HSWA); section 33(1)(a) in relation to breaches of section 2, section 3 and section 7; and section 33(1)(c)
- Corporate Manslaughter and Corporate Homicide Act 2007, section 1
3. Sentencing guidelines must be followed, unless a judge or magistrate feels it is not in the interests of justice to do so. If a judge or magistrate believes that a guideline prevents the correct sentence from being given in an exceptional case, he or she can sentence outside of the guideline. Guidelines set sentencing ranges within the maximum for the offence as set out in current legislation. When legislation changes guidelines are amended as appropriate.
4. The Sentencing Council was established by Parliament to be an independent body, but to be accountable to Parliament for its work which is scrutinised by the Justice Select Committee. Ministers are also accountable to Parliament for the Sentencing Council’s effectiveness and efficiency, for its use of public funds and for protecting its independence. Council members can only be appointed with the agreement of the Justice Secretary.