BSB discloses sexual misconduct data ahead of sanctions review

The Bar Standards Board has received 21 reports of sexual misconduct over the past year, with four cases referred to the disciplinary tribunal, according to figures sent to the bar’s representative body.

Responding to concerns voiced by the Bar Council, the regulator said it received 21 reports of sexual misconduct by barristers associated with their work between March 2019 and March 2020. Three of the reports are still at the initial assessment stage, while 14 have been referred for some form of regulatory action.

Of these, four have been referred to a disciplinary tribunal and six are still being investigated.

The Bar Council wrote to the BSB earlier this month warning that recent controversy over how sexual misconduct allegations against barristers are handled is ‘likely to reduce confidence’ in the profession. It asked the regulator for figures relating sexual harassment complaints and details of how investigations are handled.

The BSB said it satisfied that the impact on complainants is ‘fully taken into account’ in the bar’s disciplinary process. ‘We obtain witness statements from alleged victims which include a section on the impact of the alleged conduct on the person. Such statements will always be included in the evidence presented to a tribunal and the information can be used both to assist with proving charges and to support decisions on sanctions.’

However, it said it is ‘actively exploring’ the possibility of funding external support services to assist complainants through the disciplinary process.

The Bar Council said it wrote to the BSB in 2019 concerns, and said it is ‘disappointed that there are still clearly issues with the investigations and sanctions process in this sensitive area’.

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