The public would be able to find out about the misconduct of barristers tried by closed-door tribunals under a new proposal by the Bar Association. Guidelines for greater openness may be issued to association tribunals, formed by members to try barristers whose conduct is deemed questionable, according to chairman Ronny Tong Ka-wah SC. Mr Tong said the tribunals would be required to make an order on whether their findings could be released to the public and in what form. The move was made after a South China Morning Post reporter was denied access to a recent judgment which ordered barrister John McLanachan to be suspended from practising for four months. Mr McLanachan admitted five counts of misconduct before a tribunal in July. He was found to have failed to observe the ethics of the profession by deliberately misleading a judge. The order was published in the Government Gazette in August, but only brief details of the case were given. Mr Tong told the Post barristers had also been denied access to copies of findings after the Bar Council, the association's executive body, voted not to allow disclosure. He said that in future such decisions should be made by the tribunal which would have a better idea about the case concerned. Mr Tong said a tribunal had to determine what information, such as the facts of the case or the sentence, could be released. He said the body had to hear submissions from the defence if objections were raised by the accused. 'We have to take into account two competing interests. The public's interest to know and the interests of the accused. You have to have a balance here,' Mr Tong said. He believed more openness could help lawyers to learn from mistakes made by barristers. 'Most of the time the punishment would be severe, such as suspension or striking off. The public and members of the bar would realise under what circumstances a barrister would be punished,' Mr Tong said. 'This would help enhance self-discipline within the Bar and increase its transparency.' Under the Legal Practitioners Ordinance, the High Court Registrar is required to gazette an order of suspension or striking off. A tribunal, comprising a senior barrister, a barrister and a lay person, is formed when a submission is received from the Bar Council. The tribunal which presided over Mr McLanachan's proceeding found he had seriously failed to comply with his duties under the barristers' code of conduct and failed to disclose a 'material fact to a judge'. He was also found to have been absent from a court in the middle of a trial without obtaining the judge's consent while sending another barrister who had not been involved in the case to take his place. The suspension began on September 1. Mr McLanachan, 45, told the Post the hearing had arisen out of double-booking but declined to make further comment. He was ordered to pay costs to the council, which brought the action after receiving a complaint from Director of Public Prosecutions Grenville Cross. Last year, a Bar Council committee on discipline ordered the setting up of five disciplinary tribunals.