Barrister who beat woman — then failed to surrender to custody — suspended for four months

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Decision open to appeal

A barrister has been suspended from practice for beating a woman.

Stephen Joseph Sweeney, who was called to the bar in November 2001, was convicted in March 2018 of assaulting the unnamed woman by beating, and failed to surrender to custody when required to do so. He received a community rehabilitation order and made subject to a restraining order.

A Bar Tribunals and Adjudication Service (BTAS) panel found that Sweeney had behaved in a way which was likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in him or in the profession, and acted without integrity or behaved in a manner which could reasonably be seen by the public to undermine his integrity.

The tribunal said it also took into account that the barrister, having been granted bail, failed to surrender to custody when required to do so.

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Sweeney received a reprimand from the tribunal and two four-month suspensions to be served concurrently.

Commenting on the order, Bar Standards Board director of legal and enforcement, Sara Jagger said:

“The tribunal’s decision to suspend Mr Sweeney from practice demonstrates the serious consequences for barristers that can arise from being convicted of criminal offences, even where the conduct relates to issues in their personal life.”

The tribunal’s decision is open to appeal.

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“Serious consequences”

*Insert picture of Dr Evil making air quotes here*



Four months’ suspension is hardly “serious consequences”. BTAS really needs to look into its sentencing. This case joins a series of sexual assault cases in which tiny fines or short suspensions were thought appropriate. Meanwhile, Henry Hendron remains free to ply his trade.



What other cases?



There has been no such series.



Kevin Barry, 36 Group, fined £3,000 “placed his hand down the top of X’s skirt and squeezed her bottom on more than one occasion” at the entrance to the bar and “ran his hand up and down X’s thigh on more than one occasion, in a taxi without her consent”. Reported on Legal Cheek on 18.3.19

Sam Clement Brown, suspended for 6 months, “put his hand “on the inside of her thigh” while the two were in a taxi together. She told another friend that he had “stuck his hands up her skirt”” Reported on Legal Cheek on 23.12.19

Robert Kearney, Lincoln House Chambers, fined £1,000 “draped his arm around the young gentleman and engaged in “excessively physical and unwanted contact”” That may not have been a sexual assault, but there was some sexually charged language. Reported on RoF, 28.12.18

Stephen Howd, ex-Zenith Chambers, fined £1,800 “took the hand of an unnamed woman and “attempted to kiss her on or near the lips”. Later that same evening he suggested they dance “crotch to crotch”” “on the same evening and involving the same woman — Howd took A’s hand and “kept it on or near his crotch area for about five seconds until she was able to release her hand from his grip” “Howd also referred to B as a “good girl” while poking her in the breast area of her chest.” Acquitted on appeal, but my point is that the original sentence was a low level fine. Reported on Legal Cheek on 9.5.16 and 15.2.17.

There may be others.



So 3 cases (you mention 4 but say one wasn’t a sexual assault) going back 4 years. How many of them resulted in a conviction of sexual assault?



All of them. Read the papers. I won’t do your research for you.


I’m not asking you to do my research. I’m asking you to do you’re own and present it instead of making bald accusations. Otherwise you won’t be taken seriously.


3 in 4 years – not much of a series. And how many found guilty of sexual assault by a court?



Whether or not convicted by a court, they were proven to the criminal standard before the Tribunal.


Why is this an integrity issue?



The differences between the BSB and SRA’s handling of disciplinary cases are ludicrous. If this was a solicitor, he would have been struck off and ordered to pay tens of thousands of pounds in costs.

The sooner that the BSB and SRA are both abolished and replaced with a single, competent, regulator, the better. Such a regulator should have a significant proportion of lawyers and other professionals (perhaps retired or part-time), to replace the ‘full-time quangocrats’ which currently infest many regulatory bodies (tagline: ‘Those who can, practice; those who can’t, regulate’).

Ideally, abolish the SRA *before* the SQE is implemented, so that can be cancelled and a centrally-set LPC exam implemented in lieu (which is all that is required to ‘fix’ the current system).



Yes, the SRA’s handling of such cases was ludicrous.



“…Such a regulator should have a significant proportion of lawyers and other professionals (perhaps retired or part-time),” That is exactly who the regulators are atm.


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