QC threatens action over Bar ballot

THE BAR Council could face legal action for allowing employed barristers to vote on the future of its beleaguered complaints scheme proposals.

The latest twist comes just before the result of the Bar Council's postal ballot becomes known this week.

The threat of a judicial review comes from Ronald Thwaites QC, head of 10 King's Bench Walk, whose assault on the proposed scheme inspired a Bar Council defeat at the recent open meeting and led to the profession-wide ballot.

Thwaites may mount a legal challenge on the basis that employed barristers should not have the right to decide matters he says would only effect private practitioners.

“I don't think they should give weight to the employed Bar's vote because they are not affected by the proposed scheme. I'm particularly interested to see what bearing the employed Bar has on the outcome,” said Thwaites.

He added: “If the Bar Council wins I intend to continue to campaign against its proposed scheme because I think it is anti-Bar and unworkable.”

But a Bar Council spokeswoman hit back: “I don't expect judicial review to get anywhere whatsoever.”

She said the ballot procedure was laid down in the Bar's constitution and procedural standing orders. The Bar had received no formal objection from Thwaites and, because the ballot was secret, no one would know how the employed Bar had voted, she said.

She added: “It's not true to say the complaints scheme would not affect the employed Bar. They are subject to it in the same way they are subject to the code of conduct.”

A close-run victory for the Bar Council may be the most optimistic outcome, according to Bar sources last week.

But some are resigned to the fact that that a defeat is possible, with some barristers expected to see the scheme as “an inconvenience” even if they are not totally opposed to it.

The Bar Council has warned that a defeat could spell the beginning of the end for self-regulation,