Billie Bryan of Caribbean Colour, Dinah Rose KC, and the BSB's apology dolphin.
The Bar Standards Board has apologised to human rights barrister Dinah Rose KC after investigating her and sending its report to a complainant without her knowledge.
The silk came under fire from gay rights group Colours Caribbean after she refused to withdraw from a case in which she successfully represented the Cayman Islands government in its contention that the territory's constitution forbade same sex marriage.
Citing her obligation to act under the cab rank rule - the principle that barristers cannot refuse a case, unless one of a limited number of exceptions applies - she said at the time, "The cab rank rule applies to the Privy Council brief. As an instruction to appear in a court sitting in England in an area in which I was expert, received when I was available to act, I was obliged to accept it".
Rose, who is the President of Magdalen College, Oxford, was forced to fend off criticism from students for her decision, and she described receiving "pressure in the form of abuse and threats".
Tweeting that "I unequivocally support LGBTQ+ rights", she explained at the time that barristers "should not be identified with the views or positions of their clients", as the resulting harassment could deter them from taking on unappealing clients, which "is contrary to the public interest, because a fair hearing requires that both sides of the argument are properly represented".
Colours Caribbean complained to the BSB that Rose should nonetheless have rejected the Cayman instruction using an exception to the cab rank rule which allows barristers to pass on a case if asked to undertake 'foreign work' or act for a 'foreign lawyer'.
The BSB initially dismissed the complaint, but Colours Caribbean appealed the decision, and in a press release last month announced that the BSB had sent it a "damning" five page report which vindicated its position.
Rose told RollOnFriday that the contents of the report, seen by ROF, were defamatory, and tweeted that she has instructed solicitors to bring libel proceedings against The Times over its reporting of the matter.
The barrister said she was "appalled to discover" that her regulator had "entertained a complaint about my conduct without giving me any opportunity to respond to it", and that the BSB's independent reviewer, "whilst rejecting that complaint as unfounded, had made comments that were based on an erroneous and incomplete reading of the Bar Code of Conduct". She said the experience "has profoundly shocked me".
In a public apology, the BSB clarified that it "has taken no regulatory action against Dinah Rose KC, and has made no ruling against her" and that it "did not find Ms Rose to have been 'reckless' or to have acted inappropriately".
It continued that the BSB "accepts that, before reviewing its original decision and in the circumstances of this case, it would have been appropriate to have invited Ms Rose to comment on the review. It apologises to Ms Rose for its failure to do so, and has commenced a review of its processes for the future".
The BSB also confirmed that Rose was correct to work for the Cayman government under another rule, which determines that barristers cannot refuse to act for a client because the case is objectionable or because their beliefs are regarded as unacceptable. "Criticism of Ms Rose for taking on this case is, accordingly, misplaced", it said.
Billie Bryan, the founder and president of Colours Caribbean, was unmoved, and told RollOnFriday, "We recognise that Dinah Rose KC may be unhappy with how the BSB eventually reached its ruling - especially given that she was largely uninvolved in the process - however, the fact remains that she was wrong".
The Bar Council joined Rose in her dismay at the debacle. Mark Fenhalls KC, chair of the bar said, "The BSB’s handling of the complaint against Dinah Rose was unacceptable and inexcusable. It is inconsistent with the fundamental principles of fairness to ever issue a decision document to a complainant which is critical of a barrister without providing the barrister with an opportunity to be heard or to comment".