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Lord Chief Justice: ‘Call out’ sexism on the bench

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As another barrister goes public with negative experience

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Allegations of sexism and bullying by male judges will be investigated and dealt with accordingly, the Lord Chief Justice has warned.

Delivering a speech at Middle Temple yesterday, the head of the judiciary of England and Wales, Lord Burnett of Maldon, said the recent rise in reports of inappropriate conduct towards women advocates “needs further investigation and consideration, both by the professions and the judiciary.”

Pointing out that any inappropriate behaviour is likely to have been captured on the court’s digital recording system, Burnett continued:

“This alleged behaviour should be called out and then it will be dealt with either by the leadership judges or within the formal, independent complaints procedure for which the Lord Chancellor and I are responsible. Judges must behave with courtesy and respect for all who appear in our courts and tribunals and there will be little tolerance of those few who do not.”

The Lord Chief Justice’s comments come just days after the Criminal Bar Association (CBA) published a string of anonymised stories of sexism faced by women barristers. In one example, a male judge, who wanted to sit on until 5pm, reportedly told a female advocate, “you should really think about whether the bar is right for you”, after she raised childcare issues.

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Elsewhere, a former barrister has gone public with her own negative experience of life at the bar. Writing in The Telegraph (£), Harriet Tyce recalls one particular incident where she was socialising with a group of barristers in a pub. Tyce, who was completing pupillage at the time, said:

“One barrister specialising in crime was holding forth about a rape case in which he was appearing. The defendant had compelled the victim to do lots of awful things during the course of her ordeal; details of which dripped off the barrister’s tongue in vivid detail. He was clearly animated by talking about it — especially when he described in lingering detail how she was forced to bite her own nipples. Could I do that too? He was smiling as he asked the question, fully aware of how inappropriate it was.”

Last week, a young criminal barrister hit national headlines after she urged her male colleagues to not act like they were on a “stag do”. Joanna Hardy’s plea formed part of a nine-point action plan to help improve the retention of women at the criminal bar.

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55 Comments

Anonymous

Can we also call out other forms of sexism and racist, like candidates being overlooked in favour of other candidates simply because their race and gender satisfies the leftiest-fuelled quotas?

Anonymous

Hear, hear! For hard data, look at the annual discrimination-fest that is the QC appointments. The figures published every year shows a massive gap in success rates for women over men usually accompanied by the Chairman of the Bar Council bleating on about have to do more to help women applicants.

Anonymous

What hard data or other evidence are you relying on to support your assertion that the appointment of QCs is biased?

Anonymous

Look at the massive 10 point plus gap in applicant success rates between men and women year after year. For that big a gap borderline female applicants need to get the nod when men don’t.

Anonymous

I see – do youhave source data for this? You might be onto something here – if true, its interesting how this has been under-reported compared to perceived discrimination against females.

Anonymous

They publish the data each year. Take 2017, women had a 64% success rate on applications against an average success rate, including women, of 44%. That sort of gulf is there every year.

Anonymous

Would be interesting to see some time series data on this. Its also a good chance for the subjects of recent articles who have been accused of anti-male bias to opine and demonstrate that their interest in equality extends further than cases where females are perceived to have been discriminated against.

Anonymous

The 2018 competition had a 55% success rate for women and a 42% success rate for men. The reaction of the Bar Council to the 2018 results was to issue a press release about how it was aiming for “gender parity in the QC ranks” and made no comment about concerns about discrimination against male applicants. Don’t wait up for the social media moaners about discrimination to pick up this issue, it does not suit their personal interests or agendas.

Anonymous

Let’s just abolish the Criminal Bar.

New Schooler

Second that. All my friends say that they will come to me to if they ever get locked up and I do not specialise in criminal law.

The public perception is obviously that anyone by the position “lawyer” can help in criminal proceedings. Let’s just reflect that in reality. It will be just like brexit; short term pain, long term gain.

Anonymous

What a wonderful idea. We can also apply it to the NHS and send everyone needing hip replacements to Opthalmic Surgeons rather than Orthopedic Surgeons. After all, they are still surgeons and they sound similar…..In reality, my betting is anyone needing a new hip would rather have it done by the person who does it day in, day out, and has the experience of dealing with many kind of hips – especially those surgeries that go wrong – than someone who spends their days with a different part of the body and hasn’t touched a hip since their initial training. Analogy over. God help your friends.

Anonymous

It was a joke, Jeremy. It was a Christmas Joke.

Anonymous

I had a judge who I politely asked 1 hour into a hearing if I could have a quick comfort break. He refused. I needed it to change my tampon because I had a heavy period. I politely asked again and he tutted at me and said I was making a nuisance of myself. I said to him I have the need to go to the toilet now, not later. He shook his head. It was not fair and utterly embarrassing. By this time blood was pouring down my leg. I said to him I must go to the toilet because I need to change my sanitary product and would be grateful to be given 2 minutes to change. He laughed and said, “oh so it is not because you’re a woman with a weak bladder, it is because you are a woman and are menstruating….if you must”… I felt so humiliated. The bar and bench needs to buck up. Many women I know have suffered the same or worse. This has to stop.

Anonymous

That’s terrible – did you complain?

Anonymous

If true, that judge is a cunt. In those circumstances it may help if opposing counsel also supports a break, even if making a fake excuse like saying they need to contact chambers/their clerk with some urgency in relation to their next hearing and a short break would be beneficial.

Anonymous

Opposing counsel just sat there and said nothing.

I did complain and nothing came of it.

Anonymous

Who was the complaint made to?

When you say that nothing came of it, do you mean that you received no reply or that the complaint wasn’t upheld?

Anonymous

Wow. What a dick of a judge.

Anonymous

Many judges are, and not just to females.

Anonymous

You must make a complaint about that behaviour. You absolutely must.

Anonymous

Who would vote this down?

Anonymous

The only reason I can think of is that some people don’t believe the story. The people who voted it down are the only ones who could say though.

Anonymous

There’s a core of people (or possibly just one person) who appear(s) to delight in being provocatively contrary on any issue involving gender. They probably have their reasons, though we probably wouldn’t understand them.

Anonymous

Indeed. It isn’t just one person, but a small group who delight in writing controversial articles and comments flavoured with anti-male bias, and attacking anyone who disagrees with them as sexist. They no doubt have their reasons, but we don’t see them as justifiable.

Anonymous

Where, above the line in this piece, did you detect “anti-male bias”?

Also, who is the “we” that you appear to proclaim to speak for?

Anonymous

In the articles and comments where it occurred.

How come you question the use of the word “we” at 1.21pm but not at 1.02pm?

Anonymous

Did you report this incident?

Anonymous

The stories published by the CBA don’t represent sexism as they are not gender specific, e.g. childcare issues apply to men as well. The stories may well be reasons why people leave the Bar, but there is no point in trying to turn them into gender issues when they are not.

Anonymous

Aren’t criminal trials recorded? I recall the TCC in Fetter Lane recording throughout the day even when the court isn’t sitting. Surely some of these exchanges have been recorded and may be transcribed for a judicial complaint? This would avoid the barrister having to complain at the time due to fear of the judge going against their client and protecting them with a complaint to the regulator thereafter.

Anonymous

Yes I hate it every time when a man tries to give me unsolicited advice on how much I can press – I have been lifting for 4 years now and they are just trying to find an excuse to talk to me/

Anonymous

I have been cooking for many years now. I cannot cook very well. A measure of time doing something does not prove expertise.

Anonymous

Wow, it sounds like you’re really hard done by.

Anonymous

Hardy’s comments have received widespread criticism for being unhelpful in tone and attempting to classify problems faced by males and females as only applying to females.

Anonymous

Where in THIS PIECE did you detect “anti-male bias”?

I didn’t question use of “we” at 1.02 because it did not appear in the post to which I was replying.

Anonymous

Same as before, in the articles and comments where it occurred.

Regardless of whether it relates to a post to which you are replying, why do you query the use of the word “we” at 1.21pm but not at 1.02pm?

Anonymous

This tampon incident would have been recorded in any court except for the Magistrates’ Court.

It is possible to prove or disprove that it happened as it is a matter of public record.

Speaking as an incontinent person, no one should have to describe in detail why they need a comfort break.

I can imagine how embarrassed I would be if I had to tell a Judge that my pad was leaking.

See the complaint through if it’s true.

Anonymous

Welcome Alan.

Anonymous

What was the barrister’s response to Tyce’s allegations?

Person of Tinge

A judge once asked me if I was unwell as I was looking a bit pale.

Should I have complained?

Anonymous

Depends on whether the judge had Top Bants and you’re black.

Charlotte

I had Depends on at the time…

Anonymous

‘Sexism on the bench’ sounds like a cocktail for judges.

MetooatFRU

Keep speaking up everyone about the verbal abuse, intimidation and harassment. So great to know we were right all along!

Would be interested to hear of your sexual harassment experiences in the legal voluntary sector in strict confidence –
Metooatfru@gmail.com

Anonymous

My advice would be not just to gather information on sexual harassment, but to also ask for accounts of women and men who claim to have suffered verbal abuse, intimidation and other harassment, together with the results of any complaints in order that a fuller picture is built. These claims should not necessarily be taken as fact and the response to the claim should be included for balance.

#MetooatFRU

Happy to do so and to ensure volunteers are heard, particularly those who have sought police involvement for harassment or are awaiting mediation (yep, facts sting). We remain 100% independent from all the trustees, ‘The Secret Barrister’ and the charity itself.

Nothing, of course, stops any of these people from reaching out to victims and offering the empathetic support we do…

Anonymous

Where police involvement was sought, it would be useful to know how many complaints, if any, resulted in a conviction. Where the parties are awaiting mediation, it would be better if they mention only details such as how long they’ve been waiting for, otherwise the integrity of the mediation might be impacted.

How do you determine if someone is a victim – is it because they’ve complained or is there some other criteria?

#MetooatFRU

We’re willing to offer moral support to anyone who contacts us and has been affected by bullying, racism, harassment, verbal abuse and other misuses of power at the charity.

We have yet to be contacted by any bullies there seeking to reform themselves. Psychopaths don’t. Our horrible experiences have led us to have no connection to the law. That’s why we offer empathy. To put in one way, if you believe your ethnicity is affecting the way staff or other volunteers treat you, we think your concerns can be listened to without reference to legal criteria and time-wasting semantics on who may or may not be a ‘victim’.

The mediation we know of took 4 years and several bundles of correspondence from first complaint to finally get to Linklaters conference rooms.

We don’t think the process would have taken 4 years had it been a White, male QC who had experienced sexual harassment at the charity. We would encourage anyone with evidence to the contrary to get in touch.

Anonymous

Ok, so it sounds as if no complaints to the police have resulted in convictions.

Its fine to offer empathy to people making allegations, but it is important to have evidence if those allegations are to be used to indicate a wider problem.

If true, 4 years is too long to wait for mediation to take place, and it sounds as if the mediation process may be overly legalistic.

It sounds as if you haven’t heard the accused’s side of events in relation to any of the allegations, only the accuser’s.

It isn’t clear why you don’t feel that a white male QC would have had to wait for 4 years for mediation, but it is for you to provide evidence of your assertion, not for others to prove the contrary.

#MetooatFRU

We endured office harassment, read responses from harassers-now-barristers who didn’t know what the Equality Act 2010 was, had journalists sent by other volunteers to check on who we slept with at uni and made those police reports ourselves with shaking hands.

We’ve seen 3 FRU chief executives in one year, know every type of gaslighting, brush-off and ‘I’d like to hear his side…’ e-mail you may be sent too. None of that stops the horrible office behaviour.

They know how to manipulate and they get away with it. We know who the favourites are, know that no-one has yet been reported to the BSB and know what excuses you may be given when you raise a complaint and find yourself in mediation 4 years on when you have long been seeing someone else. Harassment complaints used to be adjudicated by BPTC students.

You have every right to be skeptical. We exist to gather evidence of a wider problem stretching over many years and to support those going through the same.

As was said on another thread, no-one should be canonised as a saint for working with a charity. Horrible people and horrible things happen there. We would love to support and independent inquiry and care deeply for volunteers going through the same.

Anonymous

You’re perfectly entitled to gather evidence, indeed should do so if you feel that there’s a widespread issue. It is essential to hear both sides though.

I understand you may have approached the police, but it sounds as if none of those approaches led to convictions.

The assertions about barristers not knowing the Equality Act and journalists being sent would need to be supported with evidence.

4 years to wait for mediation is too long, if true.

It is true that nobody should be canonised for working for a charity, and nor should they be condemned for it.

I’m sorry if you feel I sound sceptical as I genuinely don’t mean to, but I’ve seen so many unevidenced, false and exaggerated accusations in my time that I can’t believe (nor disbelieve) allegations at first pass.

I wish you luck in your evidence gathering and would only advise that the evidence is presented in as neutral and objective a way as possible and takes into account responses to allegations.

Anonymous

All these pathetic Barristers not naming any names.

It makes them as useful as a. Chocolate Teapot.

Tell us who these monstrous Judges are, or shut yer gob.

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