Barristers are not obliged to speak to the media and must be wary of appearing to promote themselves when doing so, the Bar Council’s ethics committee has reiterated in an updated note.
The committee reminded barristers that since the removal of the prohibition in April 2013, they are permitted to talk to the media ‘generally and in respect of concluded litigation’ in which they acted, subject to their general professional duties.
But pointing to guidance from the Bar Standards Board (The BSB Handbook: gC22 and Media Comment Guidance), it noted that they are under ‘no obligation’ to do so and that it is not a legal service and does not form part of barristers’ duties to act in the best interests of any of their clients.
As such, it warned that barristers may not be insured against any consequences of expressing a personal opinion to the media. The BSB also reminded barristers of the risk of liability in contempt, defamation or malicious falsehood that can arise personally, or for the lay client.
Barristers were advised to consider the following before speaking to the press: the nature and type of proceedings; the stage proceedings have reached; the nature of the proposed comments; what information they are permitted to convey; whether they need the client’s consent; and the likelihood of prejudice arising from the comments.
They were reminded that their role is not to act as their client’s mouthpiece or to identify themselves personally with their client’s cause, and warned that in speaking to the media their motives for doing so may be called into question.
‘Even if this is not what you intend’ by speaking to the press, it warns, ‘you run the risk of appearing to promote your own interests over those of your client’.