Regulator wants to lower the bar in disciplinary cases

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May 03, 2017
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Barristers in misconduct hearings are judged by the criminal standard of proof

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images

Regulators are considering lowering the standard of proof in barrister disciplinary proceedings, the profession’s watchdog revealed yesterday.

Barristers are to be consulted on whether the existing criminal standard of proof – of beyond a reasonable doubt – should be lowered to the civil standard of the balance of probabilities. The Bar Standards Board said that making the move would bring disciplinary proceedings in line with the standard of proof required in the disciplinary cases of many other professions. However, solicitors – who form the largest part of the UK’s legal profession – are still judged on the criminal standard.

Sara Jagger, the board’s professional conduct director, said: “We have robust procedures in place to make sure that the way in which we deal with complaints against barristers is both thorough and fair. We want to know whether or not people think that changing the standard of proof used in disciplinary proceedings from the criminal to the civil standard would be consistent with these principles. We urge anyone with a view on the matter to respond to our consultation accordingly.”

The consultation will close on July 21, 2017.

A spokesman for the Bar Council, which represents 15,000 practising barristers in England and Wales, said: “Given the importance of this proposed change we will be studying the consultation closely, responding and urging our members … to respond.”

The Solicitors Regulation Authority is also lobbying to have the standard of proof lowered in proceedings before that profession’s disciplinary tribunal.

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