BSB launches a consultation on the regulation of non-professional conduct and on proposed new Social Media Guidance and publishes interim Social Media Guidance

The BSB is today launching a three-month public consultation on the regulator’s proposed approach to the regulation of non-professional conduct and on barristers’ use of social media. Simultaneously, interim Social Media Guidance has been published, which will be updated following the consultation. The consultation documents and interim Social Media Guidance were both developed with input from a stakeholder reference group consisting of external experts (including practising barristers) and BSB Board members.

The BSB is seeking to clarify where the boundaries should lie in the regulation of conduct that occurs in a barrister’s private/personal life (which we refer to as “non-professional life” or “non-professional conduct”), taking account of the circumstances where it is accepted in case law that it might be legitimate for regulators to intervene. Non-professional conduct may be of regulatory interest to the BSB because barristers’ conduct in their private/personal lives can have an impact upon the public’s confidence in them as individual barristers or in the wider profession. Regulation must therefore balance barristers’ human rights against the public interest in preserving public confidence.

The BSB is also revising its Social Media Guidance (which applies to barristers in their professional and non-professional lives) and seeks to strike the right balance between regulatory intervention in relation to social media use and freedom of expression (as protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998). A revised Social Media Guidance document is included in the consultation, but in the interim, the BSB is also publishing a revision of the previous guidance.

Commenting on the consultation, BSB Director General Mark Neale said:

“The regulation of barristers in their private lives and in their use of social media are sensitive areas and we want to ensure that the BSB has the balance right between preserving public confidence in the profession and barristers’ human rights. So we hope that everyone who has an interest in these issues will take this opportunity to offer us their views.”

The full consultation documents can be accessed here. The consultation closes on 20 October 2022 at 5pm.

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