Bar Standards Board refuses to provide details, but says single case has distorted internal conduct figures
Speculation swirled around the inns of court this week over the identity of the chambers where 17 barristers are being investigated over allegations involving pupillage.
The professional regulator acknowledged that one unnamed set is being probed over alleged behaviour involving either a “failure to act appropriately towards pupils” or for “discreditable/dishonest conduct”.
According to a joint annex to the Bar Standards Board’s annual report from its professional conduct committee and department, the regulator is currently dealing with a series of complaints, “all relating to a pupillage issue in a single chambers” and concerning “17 separate barristers”.
The report provides no further detail, and a spokeswoman commented:
The BSB does not usually comment on individual cases in order to balance being open and transparent along with its duty to safeguard information and confidentiality.
But the authors point out that such a prominent individual case involving multiple complaints about a large number of lawyers illustrated how “a single issue has a significant impact on our workload and enforcement statistics”.
While the specific issues involved in that case have not been revealed, the bar has faced recent concern over behaviour towards pupils in chambers.
Last month, Legal Cheek highlighted a Bar Council report in which mostly female former pupils related tales of sexual harassment at the hands of supervisors and other qualified barristers.
One senior tenant was reported to have told a woman pupil that she looked particularly “fuckable” in the outfit she was wearing that day.
However, the BSB attempted to demonstrate that inappropriate behaviour towards pupils was not as rampant as media reporting might suggest.
Last year, there were only three cases involving allegations of failing to act appropriately towards pupils brought before the regulator. And while that figure has rocketed this year, as the BSB pointed out, all those allegations pertain to a single set.
The main category of internal complaint this year remained issues involving barristers practising without a practising certificate. While the number of those allegations increased by nine to 49 this year, its percentage of the total of all complaints decreased from 37% to 34%.