Tribunal clears 4 King’s Bench Walk of Bar Council allegations

Robert Rhodes QC and his set 4 King’s Bench Walk (4KBW) are considering taking legal action against the Bar Council after the council’s allegations of mismanagement and payment of commissions for work were last week found to be untrue by a Bar disciplinary tribunal.

The set argues that the Bar’s two-year investigation into the claims “deeply wounded” the reputations and careers of the set’s barristers. Rhodes is seeking advice from defamation specialist firm Peter Carter-Ruck & Partners over possible further action against the Bar Council.

David Byrne, of Dr WH Byrne & Partners, who successfully defended Rhodes against the Bar’s claims at last week’s tribunal, said that the Bar did not interview any member of 4KBW during its investigation and relied largely on documents volunteered by Rhodes.

A Bar Council spokesman said: “We note and accept the ruling, but stress that the Bar Council is neither explicitly nor implicitly criticised by these findings.”

It is understood that the Bar Council interviewed people associated with Claims Direct, which stood accused of receiving payments by 4KBW in return for forwarding work to the set, although the Bar produced no witnesses during the tribunal.

Neither Rhodes, who was alleged to have failed to take reasonable steps to ensure that his set was properly administered, nor 4KBW’s consultant clerk Ian Lee, who the council accused of being involved in setting up the Claims Direct scheme, are understood to have been interviewed by the Bar in its investigation.

The tribunal found that on the basis of evidence provided by Rhodes’ deputy head of chambers Bruce Stuart, the payments by 4KBW to Medico Legal Support Services, an arm of Claims Direct, and later to another company, Brown & Associates, were in fact for administrative services and not for receiving work.

The tribunal also concluded that Rhodes was not guilty of failing to prevent the issue of misleading fee notes from 4KBW, an allegation that had formed part of the Bar Council’s claim, but which was not presented at the hearing. The tribunal drew this conclusion largely on the basis of evidence provided by a former member of 4KBW, Judge Heppel.

The tribunal also found that, due to insufficient evidence to the contrary, Rhodes was not guilty of failing to ensure proper records were kept of work done by members of his set.

The Bar Council has been ordered by the tribunal to pay Rhodes’ costs.