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‘Film producers are to aspiring actors what judges are to lawyers,’ says top barrister

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Judicial bullying is about power and can leave victims feeling paralysed

A leading family law barrister has revealed the devastating impact judicial bullying had on her in a candid blog post published over the weekend.

Lucy Reed, a tenant at St John’s Chambers in Bristol, doesn’t divulge the exact details of the bullying. “I’m not going to tell that story here, because it is intimately bound up with the private details of my client’s case,” she explains in her popular legal blog, Pink Tape. She continues:

“[It’s] also because it is actually too hard a story to relive.”

However, Reed — who was prompted to share her own experience of bullying from the bench after several barristers went public with their stories earlier this month — does discuss the profound impact it had on her.

And continues to have. Earlier this week she relived the experience and, she writes:

“…I was unexpectedly right back there, a gibbering wreck, wracked with guilt for breaking down at court, for failing a client (I didn’t but at the time I felt that I had), humiliated at my inability to cope and the treatment of me in front of peers and clients, powerless to make it stop because the judge had complete control.”

Reed’s blog uses ‘Me Too’ in its title, after the much-used hashtag which came to prominence in the wake of a string of accusations made against media mogul Harvey Weinstein. She said:

“What I have realised is that I felt all those things that survivors of abuse describe feeling, all those things that the victims of sexual predators feel: shame, guilt, powerlessness, a crisis of confidence. I thought I was over it, but talking about it I was right back there. Paralysed again.”

Elsewhere, Reed writes:

“Film producers are to aspiring actors what judges are to lawyers. What they say goes. My experience of judicial bullying has helped [me] appreciate why it is that women don’t often call it out. Because they are powerless, paralysed, silenced.”

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19 Comments

Guuuuuuuurl

Turn up

Anonymous

I walked out of a well known London commercial chancery chambers because bullying and harassment was rife in it. I have the luxury of being independent so could do that. Not as many people have that luxury but for me it was a choice of tolerating a toxic environment or protecting my physical and mental health. It was obnoxious though that having left the chambers then embarked on a smear campaign.

Harry

It seems the Harvey Weinstein scandal has encouraged staff from all industries to come forward with their own stories of sex abuse – I wonder how much more is to come

Not Amused

I fail to see what we will achieve if we trivialise Weinstein in this way.

Corbyn. Symphathiser

I agree.

Anonymous

You can only agree if someone else does first because YOU’RE AN IMPOSTER.

Sissy.

Just Anonymous

Sexual abuse is nothing like judicial bullying.

Trying to draw false parallels and equivalences between them only trivialises the former.

The two are separate and distinct issues, and we should treat them as such.

Anonymous

They’re exactly the same kind of thing. Sexual assault isn’t about sex. It’s about abuse of power and aggressive violence.

Anonymous

In fairness, if you read the actual blogpost the writer makes clear that she is not drawing an equivalence between sexual assault and judicial bullying.

Just Anonymous

She (correctly) states they are not equivalent, but then goes on to draw parallels anyway.

Adam

Just Anonymous.

I’m sorry, but that does not follow. Just because two things are not equivalent does not mean there can be no parallels between them.

To use an example: Common Assault and Assault Occasioning ABH are not equivalent, but you can draw parallels – eg they both require the victim to apprehend immediate physical violence and would both cause the Victim fear and pain (it’s a question of degree).

Incidentally, I also disagree with the fact that pointing out that there are other bad things in the world than sexual abuse ‘trivialises’ sexual abuse.

Just Anonymous

It trivialises sexual abuse to imply that something patently nowhere near as bad as sexual abuse – namely, judicial bullying – is comparable to sexual abuse.

My argument was not that you can never draw parallels between non-equivalent things.

My argument was that parallels should not be drawn between these two specific things.

Sexy of Counsel

Never been asked to sit naked on a chaise longe by a Judge…

Top Barrister

I’m a top barrister.

Anonymous

I doubt it.

Frustrated Writer

Ed had come through for Alex. The meeting with Legal Week’s editor was set for a Tuesday morning at the journal’s offices in the City. Alex was a little nervous at the thought of returning. When he was last there, he had thought he would never step foot inside that building again, unless it was to triumphantly return to refuse the editor’s position and laugh in the board’s faces. That was why he left so dramatically before. The return would actually be far from what he had hoped.

Alex sat hunched at a small table in a Pret around the corner from the Legal Week office, nursing a black coffee and waiting impatiently for his lawyer. Alex Wade was late. Alex looked again at his black Casio watch and craned his neck pensively out of the window at the passers-by, rushing to get to their destinations through the crowded, rainy streets. Alex began to wonder if the meeting was a good idea. He knew, deep down, that there was no way he could get Legal Week to drop the claim, but on the other hand, Alex was an eternal optimist and let his mind drift to thoughts of a grovelling apology and withdrawal following a good verbal dressing down.

Alex spotted a distinctive figure. The other Alex stood out amongst the smartly dressed City workers, looking like an extra in a cheap surfing movie as he sported flip flops, loud flowery Bermuda shorts and a luminous blue Quicksilver hoody. He had a beige canvass backpack slung over one shoulder, and sunglasses sat jauntily atop his spiked hair.

Entering the Pret, Alex Wade spotted the Legal Cheek writer and approached him, arms outstretched, grin across his face. “Hey dude, bring it in!” he said, loudly enough for two besuited men at the next table to halt their conversation and look over quizzically. In response, Alex hung his head. This meeting was going to be unpleasant if he brought this guy along.

“Just sit down” Alex hissed. Alex Wade dropped his arms and adopted a dejected expression, and moving towards the spare stool at the table.

“Alex, you know we’re going to an important meeting, right?” Alex asked, looking his lawyer up and down. Alex had never been in a legal meeting like this before, but he assumed wooden beaded necklaces were not de rigueur. “Why didn’t you dress smartly?” Alex normally wouldn’t have been so bolshie, but he was wound up today. This was the last thing he needed.

“Wow, man, what’s with the buzz kill?” Alex Wade replied, incredulous. “I’m just expressing myself. Stop being a corporate drone fellow Alex, let me be me!”

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Alex Wade groaned. “Yeah, I get that. Fine. The problem is I just jumped on a train like this, I don’t have any lawyer clothes”. He said the last two words in air quotes.

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Alex Wade nodded eagerly and reached down into his backpack, producing a small, dog eared pad, and a pencil that looked like it had been chewed by a particularly enthusiastic puppy. He opened the empty pad and looked up at Alex expectantly. “So, what’s the plan then man?”

Alex was stunned. “Erm, I was hoping you would tell me that…?” he paused momentarily, during which Alex Wade’s eyes frantically darted around the café, looking for inspiration.

“We could, like, threaten to sue them back, for like, slander or something? Maybe throw in human rights?” Alex Wade finally responded, with all the conviction of a teenager telling his mum of his whereabouts during a drunken night on the swings.

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“Well, I am, but you know, I used top in the way you guys do, like, everything is top, if I’m honest” Alex Wade responded, a little hesitantly. “I once helped a mate write a letter to the local paper. It was really good. I thought that was enough.” He let out a depressed sigh. “It went to my head. I had some cards printed, and I was dishing them out. I never thought anyone would want to instruct me. Sorry man. I’ll head back home.” Alex Wade stood up and began putting his pad back in his bag.

Alex groaned. He realised he had wasted his money, but it would look bad to walk into a meeting by himself. It would be carnage. “Look, Alex, don’t leave. Let’s just sort something out now, and make the best of it, OK?” Alex was trying his best, but he knew the next few hours would just be crisis management.

Frustrated Writer

Frustrated Writer had a feeling it would happen, but didn’t know when it would happen. This was one of his frustrations – not knowing when things would happen. But, as sure as Quiksilver has no ‘c’, it happened: someone else started masquerading as Frustrated Writer.

Frustrated Writer’s doppelganger called herself Frustrated Writer. Like Frustrated Writer, Frustrated Writer kept an eye on the shenanigans at Legal Cheek Towers, waiting to flex her linguistic muscles. She’d been watching Frustrated Writer for a while. She liked his style, and the fact that he could be relied upon. In this sense, if no other, Frustrated Writer never frustrated her.

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But just then Frustrated Writer concluded her reply by saying: ‘I like your style, Frustrated Writer. Keep going.’

Anonymous

I stopped reading the “reply” 2 paragraphs in…

Anonymous

In true LC style, there has to be a copycat.

Imitation is flattery.

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