Delays taint bar’s track record on complaints

Many barristers are taking an “unacceptable” length of time to respond to complaints against them, the independent complaints commissioner to the Bar Council has found.

Almost a quarter of complaints against barristers take five months or more to be concluded, the commissioner reported in his 2003 annual report.

The report, out today, also shows that the number of complaints dropped from 743 in 2002 to 685 in 2003. The number of complaints from lay clients did rise slightly, by five to 466.

Of 18 complaints concluded in 2003, 10 resulted in fines against barristers and eight were dismissed.

Michael Scott, the complaints commissioner, called for a tightening of the procedure of handling complaints after finding 21 per cent of complaints took more than five months to be resolved. However, he levelled blame for this delay on complainants and solicitors as well as barristers.