The Bar Standards Board (BSB) last night decided to update its policy on the publication of disciplinary findings for professional misconduct. The policy will in future extend to all avenues by which the BSB puts disciplinary findings into the public domain and the lengths of time for which such findings are made publicly available have also been revised.
The current Publications Policy has been in place for many years and covers the publication of all findings of professional misconduct, and the associated sanctions imposed by Disciplinary Tribunals or via the Determination by Consent procedure. The Bar Tribunals and Adjudications Service (BTAS) also publishes Disciplinary Tribunal findings on its website.
However, the BSB’s current policy is limited to publication on the BSB’s website whereas the updated policy covers publication by all means including on the Bar Register and on request.
This update will help to ensure that the BSB continues to meet the requirements of data protection legislation and seeks to strike the right balance between public protection and the impact on the profession of publication.
Having carefully considered the views of key stakeholders at a roundtable meeting in June, the regulator has now agreed to update its policy. The new publication policy is due to come into effect on 15 September 2019.
The revised lengths of time for which disciplinary findings will be put in the public domain by the BSB will be as follows:
- For findings that do not result in a sentence involving a period of suspension or disbarment – information about them will be available for 2 years (this is the same as the current Publication Policy);
- For findings that result in a sentence involving a period of suspension from practising as a barrister for 12 months or fewer the period will be 5 years in addition to the duration of the suspension period (the current Publication Policy specifies a publication length of 10 years);
- For findings that result in a sentence involving a period of suspension from practising as a barrister of more than 12 months the period will be 10 years in addition to the duration of the suspension period (the current Publication Policy prescribes indefinite publication);
- For findings that result in a sentence involving disbarment, the period will be 60 years (the current Publication Policy prescribes indefinite publication)
Speaking about the updated policy on the publication of disciplinary findings, BSB Director of Professional Conduct, Sara Jagger, said:
“This update to our Publications Policy reaffirms our commitment to protecting the public. As a public interest regulator it is essential that we put the needs of the public first, but we also need to ensure that we take into account the impact on the profession of publishing disciplinary findings. The revised policy, in our view, strikes the right balance. The public will continue to be able to access relevant information, so they can make informed choices before engaging the services of a barrister.”