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BSB increases efficiency in handling complaints

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today published its Enforcement Annual Report for 2016-17.

The report provides an overview of the regulator’s enforcement work during the year and includes statistics about the volume, trends and outcomes of complaints about barristers, including disciplinary proceedings.

The report shows that the time taken to address complaints is reducing and the average time to conclude a complaint has decreased by over 1.5 months in the last two years (from 4.4 months to 2.8 months).  Timeliness targets for assessing and investigating complaints have also been met, with 80% of decisions being taken within the service standards.

The report also shows that the BSB’s risk-based approach to regulation is continuing to be effective in ensuring that its resources are targeted on the most serious instances of misconduct.

The main statistical findings in the report are as follows:

  • Over 80% of complaints were concluded by the BSB at the initial assessment and investigation stages within the service standards of eight weeks for initial assessment and six months for the
    investigation stage;
  • The volume of enquiries and reports about possible misconduct by barristers (known as “pre-complaints”) received by the BSB rose to 960 in 2016-17 from 882 in 2015-16;
  • Reports being received of serious misconduct from the profession increased to 110 in 2016/17 from 80 in 2015/16. However, only 53% of these reports resulted in a formal complaint being raised, showing that barristers are rightly erring on the side of caution in meeting their obligations to report misconduct;
  • The general trend in complaints about the Bar is decreasing with fewer of the enquiries and reports received leading to formal complaints being opened this year (366) compared with 434 last year;
  • Excluding an unusual number relating to one individual barrister, a lower number of complaints were referred to disciplinary action this year too – down from 53 last year to 46 in 2016/17;
  • The number of barristers disbarred in 2016-17 increased from seven in 2015/16 to 19.

Commenting on the latest report, the BSB’s Director of Professional Conduct, Sara Jagger, said: “It is important that everyone can have confidence in the conduct of barristers. This report shows that we are succeeding in our efforts to take action against the small number of barristers whose professional conduct poses the biggest risk to the public. We are constantly seeking to improve the efficiency of the way in which we deal with enforcement issues and this report demonstrates that we are  indeed making improvements.”

Read the full BSB Enforcement Annual Report 2016-17 on our website.

The BSB is also publishing its full Annual Report today which you can read on our website.

About the Bar Standards Board

Our mission is to regulate barristers and specialised legal services businesses in England and Wales in the public interest. For more information about what we do visit: