Exclusive: Religious minister and former car-worker-turned BPTC student caught up in ongoing row over barrister title
A mature bar student who last week lost a landmark judicial review has been advertising legal services despite not having completed vocational training and not being called.
A High Court judge in Birmingham told 48-year-old Steven Prescott — a religious minister and former British Leyland worker — that he would have to re-sit his entire Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) at the University of Law after failing just one module at its Birmingham branch.
Legal Cheek has since discovered that a Steve Prescott from Birmingham is listed on the PeoplePerHour professional and trade services website.
On that site, Prescott is described as an “employment lawyer (HR consultant) UK”. His entry goes on to say:
I am trained as a barrister and specialise in the area of employment law for both claimants and respondents and HR consultancy for employers.
Bar regulators have come under increasing criticism for not clarifying the rules around who is eligible to describe themselves as barristers. There have been several recent high profile cases — involving a former Surrey local councillor, a UKIP politician and a non-practising barrister television talking head — that have pushed the issue up the agenda.
Currently, anyone who successfully completes the BPTC can be called to the bar and promote themselves as barristers or barristers at law. However, those who have not completed a pupillage stint are not allowed to describe themselves as such in connection with the provision of legal services.
And indeed, those who have not completed the BPTC are prohibited from applying to themselves the barrister title.
Nonetheless, Prescott’s services are described in what could arguably be seen as falling just short of suggesting he is fully qualified.
According to his website entry, Prescott has “a strong client centred & pastoral approach to my work. It is my job to use my relationship skills to represent your interests …”
Ironically, because Prescott has not been called to the bar, he falls outside the remit of the Bar Standards Board.
Nonetheless, the Legal Services Act 2007 created the criminal offence of wilfully pretending to be a barrister or of taking or using any title or description with the intention of implying falsely that a person is a barrister. Those suspected of being in breach of the legislation can be referred to the police.
Prescott’s website entry references could be open to differing interpretations. If a complaint were made, it would for the police, the Crown Prosecution Service and ultimately a court to determine whether the words amounted to the criminal criteria being met.
Legal Cheek attempted to contact Prescott through his lawyer, James Dixon, a 14-year-call education law specialist barrister at Birmingham-based No5 Chambers.
Prescott instructed Dixon in his recent judicial review challenge through the direct access scheme, which allows the public to obviate solicitors and approach the bar directly. However, Dixon did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
And the contact button on Prescott’s web entry was not functioning. Nor did he respond to our attempt to contact him through LinkedIn.
Bar student forced to re-sit entire BPTC after failing just one module [Legal Cheek]