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Top judge slams BSB over ‘injustice’ to student wrongly kicked off bar training course

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Ryan Eve vindicated in High Court after regulator’s blunders

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has come under withering fire from a High Court judge for its treatment of an overseas student kicked off the bar training course in error.

Ryan Eve was forced to drop out of the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) with just three months to go after the BSB raised doubts about his perfectly valid English law degree. The regulator then botched his application for an exemption from the remaining bits of the course, leading it to crash to defeat in the High Court yesterday.

In a judgment published yesterday, an incensed Mr Justice Griffiths described what happened as an “injustice” and ordered the BSB to reconsider.

The BSB said: “The judgment identifies lessons from which we can learn and we will be reflecting on those over the coming weeks.”

Eve is from the Bahamas and began his law degree at Nottingham Trent by distance learning. He later transferred to an in-person course at Northumbria, graduating with a 2.2.

The next step on his journey to the bar was the BPTC, which he started in 2014, also at Northumbria. The judgment records that Eve was “on course” to pass and be called to the bar of England and Wales — meaning he could be admitted to the bar in the Bahamas as well.

Disaster, in the form of the BSB, struck when Eve was just a few months shy of qualifying. The regulator decided that Eve’s distance learning credits from Nottingham Trent didn’t count and so he didn’t have the academic credentials needed to take the BPTC in the first place.

This, Griffiths pointed out, was “a most surprising development given that he had actually graduated from [Northumbria]”. In fact, the regulator (and/or the university) had made a terrible mistake: a year or so later, both institutions wrote to Eve saying that they had changed their minds and his degree was in order.

By then, it was far too late: Eve had been forced to quit the course by order of an “implacable” BSB and was back in the Bahamas with nothing to show for his studies (and fees). He found a job at a local law firm doing what sounds like paralegal work and never qualified as a barrister.

Eve told the court that he returned “in a very bad state mentally. I felt like the world had come to an end”.

In the High Court’s admiring words, “he never gave up”. Eve approached the BSB to ask for a waiver that would allow him to be called to the bar without completing the BPTC, under a recognised procedure for such exemptions.

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In his application, he included a glowing reference from his firm, proof of passing most of his BPTC exams, and the BSB’s own letter showing how he had been forced to drop out “just short of the finishing line” through no fault of his own.

The BSB said no. Eve appealed, then appealed again to the High Court.

A clearly sympathetic Griffiths carpeted the BSB’s handling of the exemption application. Eve had suffered “a misfortune, indeed an injustice, for which he was not responsible, namely the incorrect decision to prevent him completing his BTPC in the first place”.

Despite that, the decision to reject his exemption application “effectively provided no reasoning at all”. It could, Griffiths said, “have been written by someone who had not read the documents. There was certainly nothing… to demonstrate that the author had read them”.

The review panel then “doubled-down on the reasons in the Original Decision and added nothing to them”. If anything, they produced a decision “even more defective than the Original Decision”. The judge noted that the names of the guilty panel members had been redacted from court documents “for reasons which have not been explained”.

The judgment concludes:

“The failure to provide adequate reasons in both the Original Decision and in the Review Decision was a serious irregularity which rendered both decisions unjust and unsustainable, with the result that the appeal will be allowed”.

That doesn’t mean that Eve automatically gets his exemption, though. The case goes back to the BSB for a fresh decision.

British barristers took to Twitter to register their disgust at the regulator. Edward Levey QC of Fountain Court Chambers described the case as “troubling”.

While Barbara Rich of 5 Stone Buildings called it “a series of life-wrecking mistakes and inadequate decisions made by the regulator for the blameless applicant, all involuntarily paid for by us”.

Eve’s barrister, Tom Wilding of The 36 Group, said: “I am delighted for my client and do hope that he gets a positive result second time around.”

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17 Comments

Just Anonymous

I can’t improve on the characterisation articulated by Barbara Rich, with which I completely agree.

In the judgment itself, I found the following particularly striking:

“51. It then stated that he had not completed the BPTC and was not, therefore, eligible for Call to the Bar. The writer said that “In deciding this point, I have had reference to the Bar Qualification Rules…” However, Mr Eve had never suggested he had completed the BPTC. The reason he was applying for exemption was so that he would not have to. It is not clear from the materials, or from the Original Decision itself, why the author thought she was “deciding this point”, therefore.

52. The Original Decision proceeded, uncontroversially, to state that Mr Eve had completed 4 of the required 12 qualifying sessions with Lincoln’s Inn (2 of which are often combined as a double-credit, which may explain the discrepancy between the reference to 11 or 12 Qualifying Sessions in my papers). It then said: “As such, you do not qualify for being Called to the Bar. In deciding this point, I have also considered the above rule…” It is not clear why “In deciding this point”, namely, whether Mr Eve should have exemptions, the author of the Original Decision referred only to the circumstances which made exemptions necessary.”

I think the translation of that (from ‘understated judicial speak’ to ‘normal person speak’ is):

“It is not clear to me whether, by advancing this rubbish, the author is just thick or was intentionally being intellectually dishonest.”

(30)(0)

A barrister

Bar is spelt with a capital B

(1)(15)

A solicitor

Sentences end with full stops.

(24)(0)

Anonnn

My sympathies to Mr Eve.

He was treated absolutely terribly and it’s pleasing to see the facts finally come out in open court.

Could the fact he was from the Bahamas be relevant to the way he was treated?

Who knows.

(26)(8)

Martin Routh

That almost certainly influenced (perhaps subconsciously) the fact that the BSB thought they could do a half-baked job and fob him off with a load of rubbish, i.e no come-back as there would have been if pater had been a partner at Linklaters and he’d been schooled at a HMC instutiton.

The fact he graduated at what would have been perceived as a sub-par university and was attending a similar status BPTC provider would also not have helped. It’s impossible to believe that, if he’d been Oxford and BPP, the BSB would not have given the institutions’ admissions offices a tinkle and double-checked the credentials. (Although to be fair, Oxford wouldn’t have made the almightly f*ck up that both Nottingham Trent and Northumbria were guilty of.)

Whichever way you look at it, three institutions have failed terribly here and I sincerely hope that this man is compensated both in financial terms with interest and given another opportunity to be called.

(8)(8)

Anon

I’m not sure how you arrive at the conclusion that Trent (or indeed Northumbria) ‘failed terribly.’ In respect of the issue of whether Eve’s degree credits had been adequately transferred the Judge found:
“Nothing in the papers explained why the BSB was not satisfied; or what steps it took to check the position before compelling Mr Eve to end his studies … Nor was the BSB able to clarify that point in answer to questions during the hearing.”
The criticism is directed solely at the BSB.

(0)(0)

Pol

Unfortunate series of events, but I suspect the issue was more a function of the rather unusual academic path taken by the individual involved rather than where he came from.

(5)(3)

A

“Top judge”? Very tabloid and basic. Tsk.

(10)(2)

Granny Grammar.

It’s “Judge”, not “judge”.

(1)(2)

I Eat Chips

What I learned from this article is that you can get on the BPTC and qualify with a Desmond from a meh uni. There really ought to be better gatekeeping than that.

(6)(15)

Disgusted and Confused

Jesus Christ, the BSB really dropped the ball on this one. I’d have thought given how shit and clearly deficient the review decision was, they’d have just dropped hands at the first sign of litgetion and just conceded. I hope he hammered them in costs.

(15)(0)

Rumpolean

Common sense prevails again.

I do wish people wouldn’t treat our Commonwealth kith and kin as second class citizens.

I wish him an early pupillage offer.

He’s shown the tenacity to deserve one.

(2)(0)

Touker

Further proof that the BSB (and the SRA) are regulators who are grossly overpaid for their sizeable incompetence.

(19)(0)

Known-to-All

Thank God for the Court although the delay is enormous. I really hope the compensation accompanying this decision is enormous to cure the pains and embarrassment the student has gone through and meet up with costs of his future BPC studies.

(3)(1)

Askin

On what legal basis should be compensated?

(3)(6)

Prof reeder

Lean to poof read your document before sending its,

(1)(0)

A Nony Mouse

Between this and the BPTC exams the last couple of years it is becoming increasingly clear that the BSB is out of its depth and not fit for purpose.

(2)(0)

Comments are closed.

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