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Fit and Proper Persons: King v Bar Standards Board (2018) QBD (Admin) 15/06/18

Ex-barristers may apply to their Inn to be readmitted once a period of 5 years has elapsed, and ultimately an appeal from a decision of the Inn lies with the High Court.

An applicant for readmission is faced with a dilemma - whether on the one hand to put the offending behaviour which led to disbarment into context, explaining why it happened so as to make the conduct understandable if not acceptable, or on the other to focus on their own remorse and current fitness of character. The case of King v Bar Standards Board (2018) QBD (Admin) 15/06/18 concerned the case of a barrister who had been convicted of a serious criminal offence leading to a significant custodial sentence. Some 16 years had passed since the offence had been committed and there was no suggestion of a risk of re-offending. Moreover Mr King had engaged in significant charitable works. However the High Court found that the Inns' Conduct Committee, in making their decision to refuse readmission, had been entitled to find that Mr King lacked the proper insight into his offending because he maintained his deeply felt criticism of the conduct of the prosecution, the summing up remarks of the judge, and the decision of the jury. The case of Yussuf v GMC [2018] EWHC 13 concerned a similar case: a GP struck off when sexual misconduct and dishonesty offences were found proven by the GMC, but not accepted by Dr Yussuf. The High Court found then that it would in theory be possible to demonstrate the appropriate insight into the nature of offences of serious misconduct whilst not accepting the findings of the original tribunal. However in Mr King's case the insight was not present because the way in which he had (albeit honestly and genuinely) framed his objection to the original conviction was viewed by the High Court as not demonstrating the respect and regard for the law which was fundamental to practice as a barrister. In putting the offending behaviour into the context of his own attitude towards it he had failed to appreciate its objective significance. That was relevant to whether or not he was a fit and proper person at the time of the readmission, regardless of the passage of time.

Dr Joanna Kerr / 29th Aug 2018


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