QC urges Bar to drop complaints system

REBEL silk Ronald Thwaites will call on the Bar Council to abandon its proposed new complaints system and to stop further attacks on the Bar from “sniping” critics.

In a paper the council has agreed to circulate this week, he opposes plans for compensating “distressed” clients or lay involvement in the system. The paper sets out Thwaites' own recommendations for revamping the existing complaints procedures.

Attacking the proposed new system as “another step in the erosion of the Bar's independence”, Thwaites said: “It's the beginning of the end. We are already being sniped at by the judges on wasted costs orders, by the solicitors, clients, and now the Legal Services

Ombudsman who says we are sheltering behind our court immunity.”

The open meeting this month may decide the future of the complaints proposals. Already letters have gone out to all heads of chambers.

The meeting on 21 November will have the constitutional status of an extraordinary general meeting (EGM), which allows voting. A straight majority vote against the Bar Council could force it to rethink the proposals.

A Bar spokesman said the vote would be “advisory rather than binding, although effectively it would be binding”.

Bar Council chair Peter Goldsmith QC and Robert Owen QC, deputy chair-elect and chair of the Bar committee which drafted the complaints reform, will defend the proposals.

Thwaites, a criminal lawyer and head of chambers at 10 King's Bench Walk, claims support from 150 barristers, “including 20 or 30 silks” who gave him their signatures for an EGM.

“I hope that hundreds of people will come to have their voices heard,” said Thwaites.

He is concerned about plans to make barristers pay up to £2,000 compensation to clients dissatisfied with poor service.

He also objects to the appointment of a lay commissioner as “a waste of money”.