The Council of the Inns of Court (COIC), the body responsible for the Bar's disciplinary panels, has just issued new guidance on the recommended level of disciplinary sanctions for professional misconduct arising from failure to comply with CPD obligations or to pay practising certificate fees. The guidance indicates that the starting point for first time offenders, for a single charge of such misconduct, should be a fine of £600 - 900. However, the experience of the BSB is that breaches are rarely committed singly. Therefore, where a barrister fails to complete the required CPD hours (or submit a record card), fails to pay the administrative fine for late completion and fails to respond to BSB correspondence, a total fine of £2,400 or more is likely to be imposed. Further, a period of suspension from practice may be warranted for repeated failures to comply and in some recent cases barristers have been disbarred.
All findings of professional misconduct currently remain on a barrister’s record for the whole of his or her career and such findings are
disclosed in relation to applications for Silk or judicial office. The findings are also publicised on the BSB’s website. Barristers can easily avoid disciplinary action by ensuring that CPD requirements are met, and that practising certificate fees are paid, on time. Indeed, disciplinary action can still be avoided even where there is late completion or payment as long as the administrative fine imposed by the BSB is paid on time and the relevant hours are completed (and/or fee paid) by the stipulated dates. The BSB will take disciplinary action where a barrister has persistently failed to comply with his or her practising obligations. The BSB will always consider appropriate applications to reduce the number of CPD hours required and also applications for extensions of time to complete hours or to pay fees. Information about making such applications can be found on the BSB website