BSB criticised as barrister cleared of misconduct

A tribunal verdict that a legal disciplinary practice (LDP) barrister conducted litigation in breach of the bar’s codes has been overturned.

Portia O’Connor was the first barrister to become a partner in an LDP when she set up Pegasus Legal in 2010.

But a Bar Standards Board (BSB) disciplinary tribunal convicted her of professional misconduct and discreditable behaviour because she conducted litigation, which is currently prohibited under the BSB code of conduct. This included signing a statement of truth and enclosing court documents in a letter to a solicitors firm.

On appeal to the Visitors of the Inns of Court, led by Sir Andrew Collins, the decision was overturned because of procedural failures in the tribunal, including not allowing O’Connor to make final submissions. They also ruled that the BSB must pay the costs of the appeal.

The visitors raised concerns that the BSB’s guidance on conducting litigation is not sufficiently clear to be able to determine easily what types of behaviour fall within the prohibition in the code.

Collyer Bristow partner Rhory Robertson assisted O’Connor and said he hoped that future disciplinary tribunals would take notice of the visitors’ criticisms.

Full written judgment has not yet been handed down.

A BSB statement said: “The BSB respects the decisions of the visitors and the integrity of the appeal process, which is an essential component of the disciplinary system. While disciplinary tribunal decisions are often upheld by the visitors on appeal, on this occasion they were not.

“Once the judgment is available, the BSB will be able to assess what action needs to be taken. This will include considering existing guidance, especially in the light of the proposed terms of the new code of conduct, which put forward a relaxation of the rules on conduct of litigation in the consultation held earlier this year.”