The changes are the culmination of an 18-month implementation project arising from recommendations made by Rob Behrens in his 2007 Strategic Review.
Key changes include a new process for referring complaints received by the BSB back to chambers to consider, with an obligation on heads of chambers to ensure that any complaints referred by the BSB are investigated and the outcome reported. For the first time, sentencing guidance in relation to disciplinary cases will be available and published on www.barstandardsboard.org.uk, allowing barristers to gauge the potential sanctions that might be imposed.
Another first is the introduction of a new disciplinary process known as “determination by consent”. This allows the BSB Complaints Committee to determine the outcome of complaints, with the barrister’s consent, and thereby avoid the time and expense of a formal disciplinary hearing.
A wide range of other changes have also been made to improve communications and accountability. A complaints information line for barristers and complainants has been set up and the appointment of an Independent Observer will ensure the operation of the processes is reviewed on a continual basis.
The introduction of a user satisfaction survey for all barristers and complainants involved in complaints will provide the BSB with essential information in shaping the future of the complaints and disciplinary system.
Sue Carr QC, who chaired the BSB’s implementation group, says: “These important changes demonstrate the BSB’s commitment to continual improvement in raising standards at the Bar and are a significant step forward in creating a more streamlined and effective complaints system that addresses the interests of the public as well as the profession.”