Lord Irvine stalls Bar's court ban on non-practising barristers

The Bar Council has been forced to suspend a controversial rule change barring non-practising barristers from acting as advocates after the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine, said he should have been consulted.

On 1 June the Bar Council changed rule 212 of its code of conduct to remove rights of audience from about 3,000 barristers not in independent practice or working in-house unless they received a waiver. The rule applied not only in courts but also to tribunals and public inquiries.

But in a letter sent out to non-practising barristers on 24 July, Helen Wagner, executive secretary of professional standards at the Bar Council, says that the Lord Chancellor has decided the rule change needs his approval and that the new rule 212 “ceases to have effect”.

Last month the Bar Council was forced into another embarrassing climb-down over proposals to disbar barristers who had requalified as solicitors after it was threatened with judicial review.

Mark Stobbs, head of the professional standards committee at the Bar Council, said it could take months for the Lord Chancellor to give his approval.

But he said that the rule change was “merely a clarification” of the old rules which already prevented non-practising barristers from “appearing as counsel in any court”.

Dr Peter Gray, secretary of the Employed and Non-practising Bar Association said: “I just wish the Bar Council would stop wasting everybody's time with this.”