Little appetite to find out identity of whistleblower
A survey conducted in association with the Bar Council has been subject to intense criticism on Twitter overnight after it asked lawyers whether anonymous blogging heavyweight The Secret Barrister (SB) should be “unmasked”.
As part of a short survey included in the latest edition of Bar Talk, a fortnightly newsletter produced and circulated by the Bar Council, media partner The Times asked whether it was fair for SB to operate from behind a “cloak of anonymity” given his (or her) “harsh criticisms of the criminal justice system”. The survey continued:
The interest in the identity of the secretive member of the bar hasn’t gone down well with lawyers on Twitter. CrimeGirl, who like SB is a barrister and tweets under an alias, described the question as a “nasty veiled threat”. 11KBW‘s Sean Jones QC queried whether the Bar Council “should be promoting” such as a question, while John de Waal QC, a tenant at Hardwicke said “we should be supporting him/her [SB] not undermining.”
The Twitter backlash continued:
what on earth is it to them?
— Rebecca Herbert (@RebeccaHerber44) October 11, 2018
Everyone should claim to be @barristersecret at the same time and flood them
— Jillybrum (@JillyBrum) October 11, 2018
The moment @BarristerSecret identity become public knowledge the media etc with focus on digging into their character, private life and career instead of trying to bring change where it’s needed within the justice system.
— Siobhan Tatum (@BarChat_Siobhan) October 11, 2018
Responding to the survey, SB said they were “surprised” by the focus on whether or not to unmask a whistleblower, particularly “at a time when the justice system is at crisis point”.
Have to say I’m a little surprised that, at a time when the justice system is at crisis point, the focus is on whether to unmask a whistleblower trying to draw public attention to the problems. But hey no.#VoteNo https://t.co/QaW0kBgKSW
— The Secret Barrister (@BarristerSecret) October 11, 2018
A Bar Council spokesperson told Legal Cheek: “The Bar Council does not support the idea of unmasking The Secret Barrister. The Times Law survey question relating to The Secret Barrister’s anonymity is not a demand to unmask The Secret Barrister. The survey is an opportunity for the bar to send a clear message to those who are seeking to lift the legal blogger’s anonymity and help strengthen The Secret Barrister’s purpose of highlighting the many flaws in the justice system caused by a lack of investment. They added:
“The bar, we hope, will vote no. Equally, we hope those completing the survey will also share their views in response to the other questions asked about the current state of the justice system, which are of paramount importance.”
This isn’t the first time SB’s identity has made headlines. Earlier this year, the now successful author was interviewed by Financial Times for its popular Lunch with the FT series in a piece that revealed SB was “somewhere between 30 and 40”, had attended a comprehensive school and was a non-Oxbridge law grad.