Meet the lay regulators

David Wurtzel begins his introduction of the lay members of the Bar Standards Board

Because they are not elected—although they are appointed in accordance with Nolan principles—the lay members of the Bar Standards Broad (“BSB”) have tended to be remote from ordinary barristers both in terms of what they do and of who they are. Counsel therefore decided to begin to introduce the lay members to its readership. There are seven lay members (including the Chair, Baroness Ruth Deech) on the BSB who are (in alphabetical order): Mrs Sarah Brown; Dr John Carrier; Ms Paula Diggle; Dr Vicki Harris; Professor Peter Hutton; and Richard Thompson OBE. David Wurtzel, Counsel’s Consultant Editor, met three of them in January and February 2010.


 

Dr John Carrier

Dr John Carrier is an original board member and is the only lay chair of a BSB Committee. He is particularly well qualified to run the Education and Training Committee, having spent his entire adulthood in higher education—he was Dean of Graduate Studies at the LSE for several years and at the LSE itself for 40 years. As he said, “I’ve got chairing experience”—Chair of the Royal Free Hospital NHS Trust, of the Highgate Cemetery Trust and now of the Camden Primary Care Trust. As an academic, he taught health policy and the issues around it. He was so concerned about the Community Care Act 1990 that he decided it was time to learn more about law, so he did a four year, part-time degree at what is now the University of Westminster. He had already been a consumer of advocacy for nine years as a lay magistrate, during which time the CPS took over the presentation of cases from the police.

In his present BSB post he spends a great deal of his time supporting and implementing what one ought to call the “Wood process”, that is, the succession of working parties chaired by Derek Wood QC to deal with the Bar Vocational Course (soon, as a result, to be launched as the Bar Professional Training Course), on pupillage (a report being written as we spoke), and on CPD (about to commence its work). John acknowledges the excellent support given to this work and to the smooth running of the BSB Education and Training Department and its main Committee by Dr Valerie Shrimplin and her staff. John recognises that “advocacy is key” to the Bar’s services which are based on both knowledge and of skill: “Advocacy has a sound knowledge base through legal education, and a skill base that is acquired by training”. He firmly supports the upcoming aptitude tests because “the Bar is about the culture and use of the English language”. He has immersed himself in how advocacy is taught: he visits providers, the Inns’ advocacy training including Cumberland Lodge and Highgate House, and the South Eastern Circuit course at Keble College. “I read the law reports quite vigorously”. He sat in as an observer at Wood Green Crown Court and in the Court of Appeal, and saw—as he did when he was a magistrate—advocacy of varying quality.
He remains upbeat about his tasks and about the people he deals with. Committee discussions do not divide along lay/Bar lines, members are willing to change their minds (he did, over deferral of Call) and he admires greatly the pro bono contribution which the Bar makes. “One of the most incredible events I witnessed was the Open Weekend in the Temple” in 2008 when 25,000 members of the public came and listened.

 

Richard Thompson OBE

Richard Thompson is the “new boy” chosen in September 2009. Although he is about to start on the Pupillage Committee, when I met him in January he had only been attending main Board meetings where his focus has been on the new entities, that is, “how the Bar in the future will practice”. He sees the role of the independent member as bringing “that slightly different perspective” and “to make sure the difficult questions are asked”, one such difficult question being how many regulators one actually needs for the legal profession in the era of new working arrangements.

As it happens, he is the son and nephew of lawyers. His father was a QC and later a judge on the Western Circuit. Richard read law at Exeter because in 1982 it was the only university offering European Union law, a subject with which, being half-French, he felt some affinity. However he was advised, 28 years ago, that the Bar was going to struggle—too many people and too competitive. He was already in the army which was paying for his degree course and decided to stay on for seven years after graduation. He joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (“FCO”) in 1989, and in 2007 began a third career as Chief Constable of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, a specialist anti-terrorist police force which protects nuclear material. As such he is conscious of how keen Al- Qaeda has been to develop weapons of mass destruction and of the willingness of Pakistan to share its nuclear expertise.

The “different perspective” which he brings to the Board is his first hand awareness of how perilous the rule of law can be. His FCO service which coincided with British “expeditionary campaigns” taught him that it is “relatively straightforward to dismantle these countries and to invade them but quite a different thing to reconstruct them. By and large we were well received in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Iraq but one quickly loses legitimacy if we then cannot deliver a ‘safe and secure environment’ in which the basic amenities are operating normally and people can conduct their business in safe streets. If you destroy the infrastructure and criminalise the elite of the country then you are going to struggle.” Having been in Pristina and later in Baghdad for 16 months during the worst months of civic violence (February 2004 to June 2005) he knows what the challenges are. “The rule of law is fundamental,” he says.

 

Sarah Brown

Sarah Brown is one of the original board members. She came to the BSB after a career in the Civil Service in the Department of Trade and Industry which included being Bill manager for the Financial Services Act 1986, “trying to take it from an initial idea of where you want to go, turning it into a concrete proposal that actually works” including talking to all the people who need to buy into it. That included negotiating with representatives of the Bar Council and the Law Society over amendments they wanted on behalf of their members. Following it through from White Paper to Royal Assent meant that she gained an incomparable mastery of project management which is one of the great assets she brings to the BSB.

She took retirement 13 years ago and has pursued a portfolio career since then. As Vice-Chair of the Standards Committee which is responsible for revisions of the Code of Conduct and a member of the Working Group on Alternative Business Structures, she has been at the heart of the major recent decisions. The emphasis is on trying “to find the public interest” and in developing a “more principled based code” which provides a clear understanding of what is expected of barristers, both for barristers themselves and for those who use their services. She has attended some of the Bar Council roadshows which have been aimed not as a consultation exercise but as an exercise in giving information so that barristers can make plans. She admits that there have been “very divergent views” so far with “no consensus at the moment”.

Sarah also chairs a Working Group on Practice Rules to deal with the authorisation of barristers and the question of barristers who are not entitled to a practising certificate but who nevertheless provide legal services, legal advice not being a reserved legal service under the Legal Services Act 2007. Administration of chambers is another issue and then there is quality assurance (“people should be able to count on high quality services when they use a barrister”). All this means that she spends about two days a week on BSB business—“the biggest chunk of my time”—although she is also on the Audit Committee of the CPS and has several other roles.

 

 

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