Report No. 75
Disciplinary Jurisdiction in England over Members of The Bar
Disciplinary function of Inns of Court and Senate.- In England, admission of a person as a student (of law) and, when he is qualified, as a barrister, is still the responsibility of the Inns of Court. The Inns of Court are also responsible for the maintenance of discipline and for the observance by the barristers of the rules of professional conduct and etiquette. The Inns have delegated the exercise of a number of their powers. For example, their responsibilities in regard to the education and the examination of bar students have been delegated to a council of legal education. In 1967, the Inns delegated their disciplinary power to a "Senate" of the four Inns, which also has wide administrative responsibilities in relation to the bar.1-2
Halsbury states the position as to disciplinary jurisdiction in detail3 as follows:-
"The disciplinary powers of the four Inns of Court, other than those relating to the domestic affairs of the Inns, have been delegated by the benches to the Senate of the Pour Inns of Court.4 Complaints of professional misconduct or of conduct unbecoming a barrister which may be made against a barrister are received by the Senate from the Bar Council or other bodies or individuals, and are considered by the Complaints Committee of the Senate.5
In respect of any complaint the committee may decide that no disciplinary action be taken or that the complaint be reported to the treasurer of the Inn of the barrister concerned, or that it shall form the subject matter either of a charge or charges before the Senate Disciplinary Committee,6 which may include a judge of the Supreme Court but otherwise consists of practising barristers who are members of the Senate.7 When sitting as a tribunal, the Disciplinary Committee consists of not more than seven members and not less than five members.8"
Where any case is reported to the Disciplinary Committee, the Complaints Committee is responsible, with the concurrence of the barrister's Inn, for the appointment of counsel to formulate the charge or charges and to present the case before the Disciplinary Committee.
The sentences which may be imposed by the Disciplinary Committee are disbarment, suspension, either conditionally or otherwise, an order to repay or forego fees, or a reprimand9. The sentence, if any, must be notified by the president of the Senate to the treasurer of the Inn of the barrister concerned and the Inn must give effect to it in accordance with such direction, if any, as may be given by the Senate.10 In those cases where a sentence of disbarment or suspension is ordered, the charges, finding and sentence are published by the barrister's Inn. In other cases, publication is made if the barrister concerned so requests or if the president of the senate so recommends. Where the charge or charges are dismissed, the charges and findings are not published unless the barrister so requests.11
The decision of the Disciplinary Committee is subject to an appeal to the Lord Chancellor and the judges of the High Court of Justice sitting as a domestic tribunal.12 The judges when sitting in this capacity are described as 'visitors'."
1. Wilson Cases and Materials from the English legal system, (1973), p. 18.
2. See S. (in re:), (a barrister), (1969) 1 All ER 949, where the jurisdiction is fully set out.
3. Halsbury's, 4th Edn., Vol. 3, pp. 615, 616, para. 1113.
4. Regulations of the Senate of the Four Inns of Court, (1970-71), reg. 13.
5. Standing Orders of the Senate Complaints Committee, (1967), ord. 4.
6. Standing Orders of the Senate Complaints Committee, (1967), ord. 5.
7. Regulations of the Senate of the Four Inns of Court, (1970-71), reg. 13(b); Annual Statement of the General Council of the Bar, (1966), p. 42.
8. Standing Orders of the Disciplinary Committee of the Senate, (1971), ord. I.
9. Standing Orders of the Disciplinary Committee of the Senate, ord. 10.
10. Regulations of the Senate of the Four Inns of Court, (1969), reg. 14.
11. Standing Orders of the Disciplinary Committee of the Senate, (1971), ord. II.
12. Annual Statement of the Senate, (1966-67), p. 7.