Kathryn Stone OBE Blog
We delayed publication of this month’s Regulatory Update as the BSB joined in mourning the loss of Her Majesty the Queen. We offer our sincere sympathy to His Majesty the King and all the Royal Family at this time of great sadness. May the memory of her commitment to public service continue to inspire us all.
This is my first blog as the new Chair of the Bar Standards Board. I must begin by thanking my distinguished predecessor, Tessa Blackstone, for her excellent work over the past four years and to wish her well for the future. I’ve been a member of the Board since the start of 2018 and I have a keen appreciation of the vital role that the Bar plays in our national life. I’m also very aware of the challenges you currently face, especially at the publicly funded Bar.
I am particularly conscious of the current action by members of the criminal Bar. It is for the Bar Council and not the Bar Standards Board to represent the interests of barristers themselves. At the BSB our primary concern is to ensure that barristers meet their duties to the court and to their clients in the public interest. However, we also believe that our regulatory objectives of improving access to justice, protecting and promoting the interests of consumers and encouraging an independent, strong, diverse and effective legal profession can only be achieved if the publicly funded Bar is able to work effectively. We therefore hope for a speedy resolution to the current dispute.
Some of you may have heard of me in my other role as the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, a post which I’ll be leaving at the end of this year as my term of office ends. Before that I was the Chief Legal Ombudsman for England and Wales. So I have many years’ experience of working with consumers and legal service providers and, I hope, a good understanding of their different perspectives. I’ve also been a Commissioner with the Independent Office for Police Conduct and at the Commission for Victims and Survivors in Northern Ireland.
I began my career as a social worker and have spent my entire life in public service. I have a lifelong commitment to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion. I hope to use this experience to lead the BSB in promoting and maintaining the highest standards of professional conduct. I’m very conscious that there are areas where the BSB needs to improve our performance and I look forward to working with all our stakeholders to ensure that the BSB will be the best it can be.
Equally, the BSB cannot neglect its responsibility to pursue, in partnership with the profession, its wider regulatory responsibilities to consumers, to the rule of law and to the strength and diversity of the profession itself – summarised in our strategic priorities of “standards, equality and access”. I very much look forward to meeting some of you at the meetings we shall be holding around the Circuits over the next few months to look at the important contribution which chambers can make to these priorities. I hope these meetings will also give you an opportunity to give me your wider views about the BSB’s priorities directly.
Meanwhile the BSB has a busy agenda. Please do offer us your views on our proposed approach to the regulation of non-professional conduct and on barristers’ use of social media – our current public consultation ends on Thursday 20 October.
Those of you at the employed Bar may also be interested in an event which, together with the Bar Association for Commerce, Finance and Industry (BACFI), we are holding on Wednesday 5 October to explain the process of becoming an Employed Pupillage Provider.
You’ll also find some interesting forthcoming events hosted by Law Care and the Legal Services Board listed in this issue too.
Finally, as you may have seen, we are also recruiting two new Board members from the practising Bar to govern and oversee the work of the BSB. Our Board is made up of six lay members and five barristers and we are keen to reflect both the diversity of the UK and the diversity of practice at the Bar. So I do hope we will receive applications from a wide range of backgrounds. Please see our website to apply. The closing date is 9.00 am on Monday 3 October.
I very much look forward to working with the Bar and with all our stakeholders over the coming years.
Kathryn Stone OBE