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Judge sues Ministry of Justice for discrimination

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Peter Herbert takes on government in what’s set to be an explosive legal battle

PeterHerbertQC

A top black lawyer is suing the government after he was told he could face a formal warning for claiming that racism is “alive and well” not only in British public life but also, “sometimes”, the judiciary.

Peter Herbert OBE — barrister, political activist, judge and chair of the Society of Black Lawyers — made the damning allegation after Bangladesh-born Lutfur Rahman, former Tower Hamlets mayor, was banned from holding public office for five years.

Conduct guidelines state that judges should refrain from activity that could conflict with their judicial office. Herbert found himself in hot water when a complaint was made to the judicial conduct investigation office, alleging a breach of these guidelines. The part-time recorder and employment tribunal judge — the catalyst for controversial columnist Katie Hopkins’ bizarre ‘I am setting up The Society for White Lawyers’ outburst — was later told he might receive a written warning – and he’s not very happy about it.

It has now been revealed that he is bringing a claim for discrimination against the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) and will face the government in the central London employment tribunal.

This high-profile legal battle was sparked by a speech made last year by Herbert in east London, when he said:

Racism is alive and well and living in Tower Hamlets, in Westminster and, yes, sometimes in the judiciary.

But is he right?

It’s impossible to say — but judicial stats don’t look too promising on the ethnic diversity front. The number of black minority ethnic (BME) judges in the courts and tribunals is just 7%.

And while the all white Supreme Court bench may be due a makeover in the next few years, what price any of the justices’ replacements being BME lawyers?