Confidentiality and Conflicts of Interest
Dere Street Barristers takes client confidentiality and conflicts of interest very seriously. Our clerks routinely check for potential conflicts of interest on receipt of every instruction received into chambers.
Where a potential conflict is identified, we will immediately inform the client and agree with them the appropriate action to be taken.
Due to the number of specialist counsel in these Chambers, we are often instructed on both sides of a case. We have a conflict policy which operates where these circumstances arise.
This policy explains how Dere Street Barristers safeguards client confidentiality in cases where members of chambers are instructed on behalf of different parties in the same case.
- Dere Street takes client confidentiality very seriously. Chambers’ barristers and staff should endeavour to ensure that there is an appropriate degree of separation in place where clients might consider there to be a conflict of interest between those instructed.
- The Bar Standards Board Code of Conduct stipulates, under its Core Duties, that barristers must keep the affairs of each client confidential.
- Counsel must not accept instructions where there is a real risk that information confidential to another former or existing client, or any other person to whom they owe duties of confidence, may be relevant to the matter, such that if, obliged to maintain confidentiality, they could not act in the best interests of the prospective client, and the former or existing client or person to whom they owe that duty does not give informed consent to disclosure of that confidential information.
- Furthermore, Chambers and its members must take reasonable steps to ensure that proper arrangements are made in chambers for the management of conflicts of interest and for ensuring the confidentiality of clients’ affairs.
- Rule C15.5. provides two exceptions to the rules protecting client confidentiality. Firstly, in relation to disclosures required or permitted by law; and secondly in circumstances where the barrister’s client gives informed consent.
All barristers should ensure that they have read, and understood, CD6, rC24.4, rC89.5 and rC15.5 of the Code of Conduct and should abide by them at all times. Barristers and their clerks should also be conscious of the guidelines published in the January 2014 edition of The Bar Standards Board Handbook on the subject of confidentiality.
- If it becomes apparent that two or more members of Chambers are instructed on behalf of different parties in the same case, the following action should be taken:
- The relevant Senior Clerk will review the situation to decide which actions are appropriate in the circumstances and, if necessary, will put in place information barriers and will communicate these to the clients’ solicitors. He will also convey the relevant information to his colleagues, in order to ensure that confidential information is not disclosed inadvertently.
- A note to this effect will be made on the case history logs in Chambers’ LEX diary, detailing any correspondence and, if appropriate, any special controls agreed upon.
- All barristers, clerks and staff must avoid any discussion of such cases on Chambers’ premises or anywhere else in the presence of a member(s) of Chambers who are instructed on behalf of a different party.
- Clerks must ensure that papers are placed either directly in the relevant barrister’s room or tray/ducket in a sealed envelope to avoid accidental observation of their contents by opposing Counsel.
- All barristers similarly should ensure strict control over papers relating to the case to avoid accidental observation by their colleague(s). If members share a room with Counsel on the opposite side of a case then they are responsible for ensuring that all papers pertaining to that case are kept securely stored. Observation by any person should be guarded against, particularly when reviewing papers in public places.
- Emails received in relation to the case are not to be left open when barristers or clerks are away from their desks.
- Barristers should not sit at clerks desks.
- Dere Street’s members and clerks will ensure that, at all material times, Chambers is compliant with the relevant provisions of the Bar Standards Board’s Code of Conduct.
- We maintain secure electronic diaries. Individual diaries are not available to other barristers.
- Chambers has a written e-mail policy which includes protocol for restricted access to CJSM and Chambers system generally.
- Barristers do not personally collect faxes. Incoming faxes are sent to an individual clerks PC. All outgoing faxes are removed promptly by the clerks and staff from the fax machines. In addition we use a secure recycling shredding company where confidential material can be safely disposed of.
- Pupils are bound by the duties of confidentiality as set out in the Code of Conduct within the BSB Handbook. All mini-pupils are required to sign a confidentiality undertaking in relation to any material they might see in Chambers.