A third of these were for drink driving
Legal Cheek can exclusively reveal that 0.7% of practising barristers have criminal convictions, and about a third of these are drink driving convictions.
Of the 16,014 barristers currently practising, 110 have what the Bar Standards Board (BSB) terms a “criminal conviction complaint” on record. This data, from the BSB, breaks these down into drink driving convictions and convictions for other offences. Thirty-four barristers have drink driving convictions and 80 have other convictions (four barristers have both on record). This includes spent convictions.
Is this number what we were expecting? The BSB’s director of professional conduct, Sara Jagger, seems to think so. She said:
As you might expect, the proportion of practising barristers who have been subject to criminal convictions is extremely low at less than 0.7% including spent convictions.
But Legal Cheek isn’t so sure. Innate respect for the law aside, barristers are self-employed and are stereotypically more risky and quirky than other professionals. For this reason, we wouldn’t have been surprised had the percentage of barristers with convictions been closer to the number of people with convictions. This is reportedly about a quarter.
However it is worth noting the limits of this data. The stats only represent barristers who have reported their convictions to the regulator. All barristers have a duty to report criminal convictions to the BSB, but who knows if all of them do. Plus, there’s always the barristers who commit crimes, but are never convicted of them.
Bear in mind too this data is generally concerned with lower level offences, because barristers who commit more serious offences are often disbarred. Jagger explained:
All barristers who are convicted of criminal offences can expect to face disciplinary sanction for professional misconduct. Depending on the nature and circumstances of their conviction, this could lead to serious sanctions such as disbarment or lengthy suspensions from practice. Where a barrister is able to continue to practise, the criminal conviction will invariably be one that has not resulted in a custodial sentence and will be at the lower end of the criminal scale.
This year has seen a number of barristers disbarred because of criminal activity, such as Omar Khan. Jailed for 40 months by Nottingham Crown Court for conspiracy to supply a class A drug, Khan was booted out of profession in February because his conviction was deemed “incompatible with membership of the bar.”
Other disbarments stemming from criminal convictions include that of Mohammed Shafee Shaikh, who was handed a 15-month custodial sentence, suspended for two years, for trying to smuggle shisha tobacco into the UK. Then there was barrister and judge Constance Briscoe, kicked out of the bar after misleading the police in the Chris Huhne/Vicky Pryce speeding points farrago.
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