The process is the punishment.
The Bar Standards Board wrongly expelled a student from the Bar Professional Training Course and then unjustly rejected his appeals, a judge has ruled.
Ryan Eve, who is from the Bahamas, graduated with a 2:2 in law from Northumbria University after transferring from a remote learning course at Nottingham Trent University.
He jumped straight onto Northumbria's BPTC and had completed most of it when he "hit a snag" in 2015, said Mr Justice Griffiths.
With just three months to go, the BSB ordered him to withdraw "with immediate effect" because, it claimed, the remote learning credits for his degree had not been validly transferred to Northumbria Uni.
Eve "pleaded" with the regulator, but they were "implacable" and would only tell him there was "nothing [we] can do", said the judge.
Out of options, Eve returned to the Bahamas in 2015 and continued his legal education as an assistant in a chambers. A year later he received an email from the BSB informing him it had decided his transfer between universities was legitimate after all.
"But it was all rather late now", said the judge. "The BPTC course had ended without him. He was in the Bahamas. He had nothing at all to show for any of his UK studies, or any of his expenditure."
Eve took up the BSB's invitation to apply for an exemption from the vocational part of the BPTC, for a fee of £440.
After six months, it replied with a brief rejection letter riddled with errors.
The BSB told Eve he was ineligible for a call to the Bar and that it had been unable to verify that he had completed a pupillage, even though he had not asked to be called to the Bar and had not claimed to have completed a pupillage. It also said his failure to complete the BPTC meant he was ineligible for an exemption.
Eve paid £200 for the BSB to review the decision, in which he pointed out that its thinking was somewhat perverse, "because if I completed the Bar Professional Training Course, why would I make an application to be exempted"?
A three person panel rejected his appeal in another short letter devoid of explanation.
The judge said there was no evidence the BSB had even read Eve's first application, while the appeal panel's response was "even more defective".
Its members had the benefit of Eve's specific criticisms of the original decision, but "did not respond to any of that", and none of them submitted any evidence explaining their process to the court, either. The BSB wouldn't even disclose their names.
It reflected a dedication to concealment which extended to arguing in court that the BSB was under no obligation to give its reasons for wrongly expelling Eve from the BPTC.
The judge allowed Eve's appeal to have his application reheard, and said the regulator's lack of transparency was "a serious irregularity" which rendered its two responses to Eve "unjust and unsustainable". Giving the BSB a strong hint to exempt Eve, he said the student "is entitled to a fresh start".
The BSB told RollOnFriday, "the judgment identifies lessons from which we can learn and we will be reflecting on those over the coming weeks".