Bar student forced to re-sit entire BPTC after failing just one module

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By Jonathan Ames on

Birmingham High Court ruling means that students failing part of course will be forced to cough up for another round of full fees


A High Court judge has told a wannabe barrister that he must re-sit the entire vocational course — after failing only one module.

Steven Prescott — a 48-year-old Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) student at the University of Law’s Birmingham outpost in 2012 — sued the Bar Council for insisting that he incur the expense of redoing the entire course after twice failing the opinion-writing module.

Appearing for Prescott before the Birmingham High Court judicial review hearing, James Dixon of No5 Chambers said the claimant had already demonstrated he could cut the opinion writing mustard, having bagged a “very competent” grade in the personal injury option.

Dixon went on to submit that even if the court accepted that Prescott was not up to scratch in relation to opinion writing, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) — the body to which the council delegates regulatory responsibility — should have exercised discretion and allowed the claimant to re-sit that one module alone.

Summarising the view of claimant’s counsel, Mr Justice Hickinbottom said:

In all of the circumstances, including the claimant’s own personal circumstances, to require him to re-take the whole BPTC would be disproportionate on the basis that (a) it would breach the common law duty on a public body not to act disproportionately and/or (b) it would be in breach of his rights to private life under article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights

The claimant also asserted that the bar’s regulator had failed to give adequate reasons for its decision not to accept that he had sufficiently demonstrated competency in opinion writing, and/or not to modify the requirement to re-sit entire BPTC.

But Mr Justice Hickinbottom was having none of it. In a blunt summary, he dismissed the claim, stating:

None of the grounds is made good. Indeed, despite Mr Dixon’s bold efforts, the claimant has fallen very far short of persuading me that the Bar Council has acted in any way unlawfully

The ruling will come as a blow to Prescott, a former British Leyland worker, who went into teaching and is also a minister of religion. He had argued that re-sitting the entire course was financially prohibitive.

BPTC fees at ULaw’s Brum branch run to £14,500.

Read the judgment in full below:

Steven Prescott