Matrix Chambers under fire for its handling of sex assault allegation against top QC

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By Katie King on

Just when you thought it was all over…

Ben Emmerson QC

A Matrix Chambers investigation which concluded “without hesitation” one of its QCs did not commit any act of sexual assault or harassment has been called into question.

The Times today reports the leading London set has been “thrown into crisis” over the handling of a sex assault allegation against Ben Emmerson QC. The top barrister was accused of assaulting a woman in a lift, an allegation he “categorically denied” at the time and has continued to deny since.

The allegation received media interest because Emmerson was the head lawyer at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse (IICSA) at the time the alleged assault took place, and the woman who claimed she was assaulted said it happened at the IICSA’s headquarters. Emmerson left his IICSA post and Matrix Chambers instructed retired High Court judge Sir David Calvert-Smith to investigate the allegation.

Calvert-Smith produced his report late last year but it is confidential. We do know, however, it concluded “without hesitation” that Emmerson had not committed any act of sexual assault or sexual harassment. Matrix “accepted Sir David’s findings”.

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And so we thought it was all over — and it seems Emmerson did too. In the wake of Calvert-Smith’s findings, the top barrister reportedly said:

“This has been a difficult period and I am naturally very pleased that an independent senior judge has now confirmed that the allegations against me were always unfounded. I hope that the inquiry can now be left to get on with its important work, free from unnecessary distractions.”

But it isn’t all over, according to a report in The Times. The newspaper claims Calvert-Smith’s report “caused divisions at Matrix” and the set, following complaints, decided to commission another review. This review is being led by Dame Laura Cox QC, who is listed as a discrimination and equality specialist at London set Cloisters.

The Times’ report continues: “According to an internal email to Matrix members, Dame Laura, whose report was completed in July but has been kept secret, was asked to look at ‘the adequacy of Matrix rules, practices and procedures’. The Cox report is understood to be critical of the legal approach and some of the findings of the Calvert-Smith investigation and concluded that Matrix had been wrong to accept its conclusions so readily.”

It’s also been reported Matrix has emailed its barristers, asking them to “give a no comment response” to the media if contacted regarding this matter. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Legal Cheek’s attempts to contact Emmerson have been unsuccessful. A Matrix spokesperson told us:

“Matrix does not intend to make any public comment on what are plainly confidential internal matters.”

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