The barristers’ regulator is seeking to bolster its enforcement teams to deal with a surge in misconduct cases involving social media.
The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is aiming to recruit a “small number” of new staff to work on its 18 strong enforcement team following an uptick in complaints against barristers, a BSB spokesperson told City A.M.
The hiring drive comes after the BSB’s annual report last week revealed the watchdog received 2,517 reports about barristers’ misconduct last year – marking a 54 per cent increase on 2020/21.
The uptick followed an 82 per cent increase in cases involving social media, which saw the number of cases surge from 49 in 2020/21 to 89 the following year.
In September, the BSB fined a former Doughty Street Chambers barrister £500 over claims he controlled an anonymous Twitter account that sent out a series of “offensive” tweets about high-profile barrister Adam Wagner.
The BSB in July also released updated guidance on barristers’ use of social media, in warning members of the bar have a duty not to diminish trust and confidence in the profession.
The BSB spokesperson noted that guidance around use of social media is currently under review, as he explained the watchdog is seeking to balance priorities around freedom of speech with barristers’ own duties to the profession.
The increase in reports saw the BSB disbar six barristers in 2021/22, compared to four in 2020/21, ten in 2019/20, and four in 2018/19.
The BSB spokesperson said the regulator is seeking to boost both its 18-strong legal enforcement team and its nine-strong enquiries team to deal with the surge. The regulator currently employs 90 staff throughout its organisation.