Complaints Handling Procedure
1. Our aim is to give you a good service at all times. However if you have a complaint you are invited to let us know as possible. It is not necessary to involve solicitors in order to make your complaint but you are free to do so should you wish.
2. Please note that Chambers will only consider complaints that are raised within six months of the act or omission complained of.
3. If you are a lay client this procedure is designed to deal with complaints against Chambers (including a member of staff) or against a specific barrister in our chambers that they have rendered you inadequate professional service. Barristers are subject to a Code of Conduct and acting contrary to certain provisions in the Code may amount to rendering inadequate professional service to a lay client. The relevant provisions of the Code, breach of which may amount to inadequate professional service are set out in the Annex to this document.
4. If you are a professional client you may use this procedure to make a complaint against Chambers, or a member of staff, or a specific barrister that their conduct or their performance of professional services has fallen significantly short of that which is to be reasonably expected in the circumstances.
5. This procedure is not designed to deal with complaints which if proven would amount to professional misconduct by a barriser. That is because professionl misconduct allegations are dealt with by the Bar Standards Board (BSB), an independent body responsible for regulating the conduct of barristers. If your complaint against a barrister in our chambers is more serious than ony of those found in the list attached to this document then you have the right to bring your complaint to the BSB. Contact details for the BSB are in paragraph 14 below.
6. Similarly this procedure is not designed to deal with complaints that amount to professional negligence by a barrister in our chambers and which may entitle to you to sue the barrister for financial loss or damage. If your complaint is of this nature you should seek your own legal advice on the remedies available to you.
Complaints Made by Telephone
7. You may wish to make a complaint in writing and, if so, please follow the procedure in paragraph 9 below. However, if you would rather speak on the telephone about your complaint then please telephone the individual nominated under the Chambers Complaints Procedure to deal with complaints - this is Angela May, our Senior Clerk, or in her absence, Steve Parr, First Junior Clerk. If the complaint is about any senior member of staff [that is our Senior Clerk or either First Junior Clerk] telephone Mukul Chawla QC, our Head of Chambers. The person you contact will make a note of the details of your complaint and what you would like done about it. He/she will discuss your concerns with you and aim to resolve them. If the matter is resolved he/she will record the outcome, check that you are satisfied with the outcome and record that ou are satisfied. You may also wish to record the outcome of the telephone discussion in writing.
8. If your complaint is not resolved on the telephone you will be invited to write to us about it within the next 14 days so it can be investigated formally.
Complaints Made in Writing
9. Please gve the following details:
- Your name and address;
- Which member(s) of Chambers you are complaining about;
- The detail of the complaint; and
- What you would like done about it.
- Please address your letter to [name of preferred recipient and Chambers' address]. We will, where possible, acknowledge receipt of your complaint within two days and provide you with the details of how your complaint will be dealt with.
10. The individual within Chambers responsible for dealing with complaints is Richard Jory QC. He will consider any written complaint. Within 14 days of your letter being received he will investigate it, or if unable to investigate it for any reason, will delegate responsibility to another experienced Silk in Chambers. In any case, the person appointed will be someone other than the person you are complaining about.
11. The person appointed to investigate will write to you as soon as possible to let you know he has been appointed and that he will reply to your complaint within 14 days. If he finds later that he is not going to be able to reply within 14 days he will set a new date for his reply and inform you. The person appointed to investigate will speak to the barrister concerned , he may also speak to our Head of Chambers and may ask to speak to you about your complaint and anything that he has been told by the barrister concerned. He may also consider whether it is possible for your complaint to be resolved by agreement between yourself and the barrister concerned (though this may not be possible or acceptable in every case). Once he has finished his investigation he will then reply to you. His reply will set out:
- The nature and scope of his investigation;
- His conclusion on each complaint and the basis for his conclusion: and
- If he finds that you are justified in your complaint, his proposals for resolving the complaint.
12. All conversations and documents relating to the complaint will be treated as confidential and will be disclosed only to the extent that is necessary. Disclosure will be to the Head of Chambers, members of our management committee and to anyone involved in the complaint and its investigation. Such people will include the barrister or member of staff who you have complained about, the head or relevant senior member of the panel and the person who investigates the complaint. The Bar Standards Board is entitled to inspect the documents and seek information about the complaint when discharging its auditing and monitoring functions.
13. As part of our commitment to client care we make a written record of any complaint and retain all documents and correspondence generated by the complaint for a period of six years. Our management committee inspects an anonymised record regularly with a view to improving services.
Complaints to the Bar Standards Board (the regulatory arm of the Bar Council, the professional body for barristers)
14. We hope that you will use our procedure. However, if you would rather not do so or are unhappy with the outcome you may take up your complaint with the Bar Standards Board at any time. Please note that the Bar Standards Board has a six-month time limit from the date of the act or omission about which you are complaining within which to make your complaint. However, should you raise your complaint with Chambers first, there is a three month time limit from the conclusion of the investigation by Chambers in which to raise your complaint with the Board. You can write to them at:
Bar Standards Board
298-293 High Holborn
London WC1V 7HZ
Tel: 020 7611 1444
Fax: 020 7831 9217
See also: www.barstandardsboard.org.uk
Inadequate professional service is defined in the Code of Conduct and it means such conduct towards a lay client or performance of professional services for that client which falls significantly short of that which is to be reasonably expected of a barrister in all the circumstances.
Breach of the following provisions of the Code may amount to inadequate professional services.
202. Subject to the provisions of this Code a barrister may only practise as a barrister or exercise any right of audience provided that:
(a) he has compliled with any applicable training requirements imposed by the Consolidated Regulations which were in force at the date of his Call to the Bar;
(b) he has compiled with any applicable requirements of the Continuing Professional Development Regulations;
(c) he has a current practising certificate;
(d) he has provided in writing to the Bar Council details of the current address(es) with telephone number(s) of the chambers or office from which he supplies legal services;
204. A practising barrister may only supply legal services to the public provided that:
(a) he complies with the requirements of paragraph 202 above;
(b) he is covered by insurance against claims for professional negligence arising out of the supply of his services in such amount and upon such terms as are currently required by the Bar Council;
402.1 Every self-employed barrister (other than a pupil who is covered under his pupil-master's insurance) must be entered as a member with BMIF (Bar Mutual Indemnity Fund).
701. A barrister:
(a) must in all his professional activities be courteous and act promptly conscientiously diligently and with reasonable competence and take all reasonable and practicable steps to avoid unnecessary expense or waste of the Court's time and to ensure that professional engagements are fulfilled;
(b) must not undertake any task which:
(i) he knows or ought to know he is not competent to handle;
(ii) he does not have adequate time and opportunity to prepare for or perform; or
(iii) he cannot discharge within the time requested or otherwise within a reasonable time having regard to the pressure of other work;
(c) must read all instructions delivered to him expeditiously;
(d) must have regard to any relevant Written Standards for the conduct of Professional Work issued by the Bar Council;
(e) must inform his client forthwith and subject to paragraph 610 return the instructions to the client or to another barrister acceptable to the client:
(i) if it becomes apparent to him that he will not be able to do the work within the time requested or within a reasonable time after receipt of instructions;
(ii) if there is an appreciable risk that he may not be able to undertake a brief or fulfil any other professional engagement which he has accepted.
(f) must ensure that adequate records supporting the fees charged or claimed in a case are kept at least until the last of the following: his fees have been paid, any taxation or determination or assessment of costs in the case has been completed, or the time for lodging an appeal against assessment or the determination of that appeal, has expired, and must provide his professional client or licensed access client or other intermediary or lay client with such records or details of the work done as may reasonably be required.
[Paragraph 610 requires the barrister not to
(a) cease to act or return instructions without having first explained to the client his reasons for doing so;
(b) return instructions to another barrister without the consent of the client;
(c) return a brief which has has accepted and for which a fixed date has been obtained or (except with the consent of the lay client and where appropriate the Court) break any other engagement to supply legal services in the course of his practice so as to enable him to attend or fulfil an engagement (including a social or non-professional engagement) of any other kind;
(d) except as provided in paragraph 608 return any instructions or withdraw from a case in such a way or in circumstances that the client may be unable to find other legal assistance in time to prevent prejudice being suffered by the client.]
709.1 A barrister must not in relation to any anticipated or current proceedings or medition in which he is briefed or expects to appear or has appeared as an advocate express a personal opinion to the press or other media or in any other public statement upon the facts or issues arising in the proceedings.
709.2 Paragraph 709.1 shall not prevent the expression of such an opinion on an issue in an educational or academic context.
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