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It’s all over for the pupillage-less BPTC graduates who started their own chambers

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Farewell, “Boutique Barristers”

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The second member of a duo of pupillage-less Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) graduates who started their own chambers has been disbarred.

Richard Hayes, who was called to the bar at Lincoln’s Inn in 2008 but failed to get a pupillage, had already been convicted of fraud for representing clients when he was not authorised to do so.

His partner in crime, David Abbott, was sentenced in April to two years and three months for fraudulently maintaining he was a fully-qualified barrister. Abbott, who was called at Gray’s Inn in 2008, was disbarred back in 2011. But his legacy remains on Twitter.

Together the pair ran a pseudo-chambers which they described as “Boutique Barristers”. The outfit accepted instructions to, among other things, act for clients in court proceedings relating to a child who had special needs.

Judging by the non-custodial sentence of 250 hours unpaid work he received earlier this year in Lewes Crown Court, Hayes was the junior figure in the enterprise. But this did not lead to the Bar Standards Board (BSB) to be merciful when considering his case last week. A spokesperson for the body commented:

We acknowledge that the Independent Tribunal took the decision to disbar Mr Hayes. A criminal conviction for fraud is incompatible with membership of the Bar. Such a conviction means that Mr Hayes’s conduct diminished the trust and confidence which the public places in the profession, and it is not compatible with being called a barrister.

Hayes and Abbott — who are both aged 50 — are just two of a long list of BPTC graduates who have abused the title of ‘non-practising’ or ‘unregistered’ barrister after they failed to obtain pupillage. The frequent criminality associated with the title has prompted questions as to why the status of barrister isn’t conferred at the completion of pupillage stage, rather than upon graduation from the BPTC. This is the BSB’s take on the matter:

The question of when, in the qualification process, someone can use the term ‘barrister’ has been subject to much debate, by various bodies, for decades and we know it still divides opinion. When the BSB was established in 2006 one of our first priorities was to consider the issue ourselves. Following an open and broad consultation and an independent survey, the Board decided that not deferring the point of being Called to the Bar would reduce the risk of members of the public being confused about the status of barristers who are undertaking pupillage. The BSB’s view is that this lack of clarity would not be in the best interests of the public.