New rules allow barristers to be struck off
BARRISTERS found guilty of professional misconduct face being struck off for the first time under new rules introduced by the King's Inns.
The 469-year-old law school, which has the exclusive rights to train barristers but has no record of ever disbarring a barrister, has changed its rules and set up a new mechanism allowing it to receive complaints from the Bar Council, the ruling body for barristers.
Barristers who fall foul of the Bar Council's code of conduct normally resign voluntarily if there is a finding of serious misconduct against them, but they still hold the title of barrister-at-law and remain on the roll of the King's Inns.
Last night the King's Inns confirmed it will receive complaints brought to it on foot of investigations by the Bar Council and will refer them to a new disciplinary committee.
The committee will then make recommendations to the Benchers of the King's Inns, which includes all the judges of the Supreme and High Courts and senior barristers, which has the ultimate power to strike off a barrister.
There are two processes for complaints against barristers overseen by the Bar Council, neither of which lead to a barrister being struck off.
The council's Professional Practices Committee deals with complaints by one barrister against another, while complaints by members of the public or the Bar Council itself go to the Professional Conduct Tribunal.
The tribunal, composed of a majority of lay people, can place a series of sanctions on barristers including the imposition of fines and temporary suspension from practice. It can also recommend to the King's Inns that a barrister be disbarred, but only the Benchers have the power to strike a barrister off.
The King's Inn's reforms to address this anomaly had been under active consideration since 2007 when a High Court judge recommended that the actions of barrister and tax consultant Patrick Russell be referred to the Garda Fraud Squad, the Revenue Commissioners and the Director of Corporate Enforcement.
Mr Russell resigned from the law library in 2007 but can still claim that he is a barrister.