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Regulatory and policymaking functions part to deflect criticism of conflicts
The Bar Council is to separate its regulatory and policymaking arms to avoid conflicts of interest.
The move pre-empts the potential impact of proposals arising out of Sir David Clementi’s ‘Review of the Regulatory Framework for Legal Services’.
At present a barrister can investigate and prosecute for alleged misconduct a fellow member of their profession whom they also sit alongside on Bar Council policymaking committees.
The Bar Council is worried that this could lead to accusations of conflicts of interest. As a result, it wants to ensure that members of its professional conduct and complaints (PCC) committee, which has an investigatory and prosecution role in the alleged misconduct of barristers, are not members of its ‘trade union’ arm, which handles policy.
The Bar Council even risks being stripped of its regulatory function if it fails to implement these reforms before Clementi’s proposals are put into effect.
A senior barrister involved in the Law Society and Bar Council disciplinary arms said: “If the bar doesn’t make the change then it would be deprived of its regulatory side. An act would then be passed to disqualify it from its regulatory functions, which would then pass to a new body.”
Richard Price QC, chairman of the PCC committee, which is also responsible for the changes, said: “There’s a perception of conflict, rather than an actual conflict. It would be desirable to have people on the PCC committee who are not members of the Bar Council’s policymaking department.”
A Bar Council spokesman confirmed that the council was developing its regulatory work. “This isn’t because we’re forced to, but because we’re aware of an agenda we need to respond to,” he said.