Ethical Enquiries Service

The Bar Council provides a confidential Ethical Enquiries Service for the benefit and assistance of barristers (and, where appropriate, their clerks and other staff connected with barristers' professional practices) to assist them to identify, interpret and comply with their professional obligations under the BSB Handbook. This service does not extend to giving legal advice. 

Telephone: 020 7611 1307 (09:15-17:15 Monday-Friday)
Email: Ethics@BarCouncil.org.uk (response within four working days).

The Bar Council also publishes documents in our Ethics & Practice A-Z which are intended to assist barristers on matters of conduct and ethics in particular types of situation.  

Please note the limitations of the service as set out in more detail in the tabs below. 

Where possible, the Bar Council encourages members of the Bar to talk ethical issues through with peers and senior practitioners before using the service. 

You can watch our video going behind the scenes of the Ethical Enquiries Service here. 

Confidentiality

The Ethical Enquiries Service is a confidential service. All information provided by you through this service, all oral and written responses which the Bar Council gives to ethical enquiries, and any assistance which it gives in or in relation to such enquiries, will be kept confidential to the Ethics Committee, ethical advisors and all those connected with providing the service. This is subject only to your consent and to such qualifications as may be provided for by law. 

Under rC68.4 in the BSB Handbook, members of the Bar who become aware of serious misconduct as a result of their work on the Ethical Enquiries Service are specifically exempted from the obligation to report it to the BSB

 

 

Limitations

Assistance provided through this service is not "guidance" for the purposes of the BSB Handbook I6.4. 

This service is overseen by the Bar Council's Ethics Committee and is not provided by the BSB; neither the BSB, Legal Ombudsman nor a Disciplinary Tribunal will be bound by any views expressed in response to enquiries. 

Barristers are reminded that they are at all times responsible personally for their professional conduct, ethics and decisions (rC20). Whilst the Bar Council aims to guide and assist, you must reach your own conclusion on what your professional obligations and ethics require of you in any particular situation. 

Responses to enquiries are given in good faith (as is any advice given in or in relation to such responses), based on the information supplied by you, but neither the Bar Council nor any individual responsible for or involved in responding to any enquiry or giving any assistance accepts any responsibility or liability for any action taken in reliance on it, and it does not consist of – nor can it be relied on as giving – legal advice.

Mitigation

In the event of a complaint against you, you may find it easier to explain your actions if you have consulted relevant documents published by the Bar Council and/or contacted the Ethical Enquiries Service, and if you can show how, in deciding what course of action to take, you have taken into account the content of those documents and any views or advice received. In particular, the BSB or Legal Ombudsman may regard it as relevant in deciding what, if any, action to take against you in the event of a complaint; and either the BSB, the Legal Ombudsman or a disciplinary tribunal may regard it as relevant to whether you have breached your professional obligations, and may take it into account in mitigation of any penalty or other consequences in. 

If you wish to be able to refer to any oral response to an ethical enquiry then the onus is on you to take a note of that response and to have that note confirmed by the person on the Ethical Enquiries Service who gave it. 

If a response is given to you in writing, then the Bar Council will retain a copy of that response, but it may not retain any record of an oral response. 

If you wish to refer to an oral or written response, or to any assistance given in or in relation to it, then the identity of the person who provided it may not be disclosed without the prior consent of that person or the Chairman of the Ethics Committee, except in the following situation: you may disclose their identity when responding to a complaint made to the Bar Standards Board or the Legal Ombudsman.