Dismissed: Wannabe Barrister’s Claim That Minimum Pupillage Award Is Discriminatory To Black Africans

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By Alex Aldridge on

Like many Bar graduates, John Iteshi couldn’t get a pupillage – or even an interview for a pupillage.

Having completed the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) in 2007, Iteshi made about 150 pupillage applications but did not receive a single interview.

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In common with the thousands of pupillage and training contract seekers out there, he found the competition for other law-related jobs intense, too.

Since 2008, Iteshi has made over 200 applications for legal case worker and administrative roles, but only received about 5 interviews, and has not been successful in finding employment in the legal field…

Iteshi, who is from Nigeria and would have been happy to do pupillage in the UK unfunded, reckoned things would have been different if he’d qualified before rules introduced in 2003 that made it obligatory for chambers to pay pupils. And he noted from the available statistics that there have been less black African people obtaining pupillages annually between 2004 until now than in 2000-01. So he decided to take the matter to court.

First, he tried to bring judicial review proceedings against the Bar Council, but he was refused leave to do so. As a result, he brought proceedings in an employment tribunal, lost, and then appealed to the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) – where on Friday he lost again.

In reference to the statistics cited by Iteshi, the EAT said:

“the information that we have is patchy and in our view unreliable. For example, we do not know what the statistics were before 2001. More crucially, we do not know what effect withdrawal of unfunded pupillages has had on the statistics. That is because there are no statistics showing the breakdown by colour/ethnic origin of those undertaking unfunded pupillages..statistics are of little help. Applying our general knowledge we would expect that the dramatic reduction in unfunded pupillages would benefit black Africans in the same way as it has benefited people from other ethnic minorities.”

Certainly Iteshi did himself no favours by sending an email the day before his appeal to his MP, Simon Hughes, in which he copied in the tribunal members, accusing the first instance judge in front of whom he’d lost of “fraudulent manipulation of evidence” and the lay members who sat with her as being “dubious”.

The email also accused the EAT of having operated a scam at the earlier sifting stages, as being a “self constituted panel of deities” and stated that its chair, Lady Smith, was “a woman famed by ordinary victims for being manipulative and conscience ridden”.