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Bar Council teams up with AI start-up to launch ‘anti-harassment app’

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Barristers will be able to record and report inappropriate behaviour with the touch of a button

The Bar Council has teamed up with a US tech start-up in a bid to help tackle workplace harassment among barristers.

‘Talk to Spot’, an AI-based app developed by entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, California, allows its users to anonymously report instances of workplace harassment and bullying.

The Bar Council says the tool, which is already in use at a number of US organisations, will help barristers talk through and record contemporaneously inappropriate moments at work. Users, who remain anonymous, will then have the option to either save the report for their own reference, or print the report and send it to their chambers, their employer or other professional bodies.

The Bar Council stresses that “no human (not even the Spot team or Bar Council)” will see what the barrister has recorded in the app, unless they choose to submit the report to the Bar Council. It will be available for barristers to use later this month.

Commenting on the new tool, chair of the Bar Council, Richard Atkins QC, said:

“Although barristers wear wigs and gowns in court, it should not for a moment be thought that the bar does not embrace technology. Paper is disappearing from our courts, with most members of the bar using laptops rather than carrying large paper bundles wrapped in pink ribbon.”

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He added: “The ‘Talk to Spot’ app is another innovative use of technology which will allow barristers to report any inappropriate behaviour they experience, quickly and anonymously.”

The move comes after a global survey of nearly 7,000 legal professionals uncovered a shocking degree of bullying and sexual harassment affecting both men and women. One in two female respondents and one in three male respondents reported bullying, whilst one in three females and one in fourteen males reported sexual harassment in a work context.

Earlier this summer the Bar Council called out what it described as the “truly shocking” treatment of some pupil barristers by their chambers, with some calls to its Pupil Helpline disclosing behaviour verging on “abusive”.

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26 Comments

Anon

There is scope for misuse here given the covert and anonymous nature of the app. Worrying given the frequency of false accusations of ‘harassment’.

(5)(0)

BB

Thought Criminals beware!

(0)(0)

Kim Jong-un

Denouncement at the touch of a button.
I don’t think there will be any scope for misuse, especially when used in the heat of the moment or drunk in the pub.

(7)(0)

Me too, at you know who

LC, you delete and censor comments on here written by vulnerable BPTC students detailing the sexual harassment, victimisation and pressures they’ve faced to attend expensive mediation sessions with a well-known charity.

Please don’t take the moral high ground here.

(110)(5)

Anonymous

Mediation is a voluntary process.

How expensive were the sessions?

(0)(0)

Me too, at you know who

It doesn’t feel voluntary when the charity stops harassment complainants preparing cases for clients until the mediation is completed.

Travel costs to get to the mediation venue, lost income from missing days as a self-employed person to turn up to mediation, paying a GP for a medical letter and childcare costs.

None of these expenses are recoverable from the other side. Thank God barristers have acted pro bono for harassment victims at mediation.

After taking 3 years to get to mediation, the charity rescinded membership of the victims after signing the mediation settlement, stating that things had irretrievably ‘broken down’.

Horribly manipulative behaviour. Pity the poor clients who could have been helped and don’t have the English skills/money to state their case at tribunal.

I suppose at least there’s an app now…?

(60)(1)

.

What you have described isn’t mediation though.

For mediation to work, both sides need to enter into the spirit of the mediation.

There are no medical letters needed for mediation.

You certainly don’t need to bring a barrister to a mediation.

(0)(10)

J.T.

This is true in an ideal world. However, since harassment,
especially sexual harassment, is about power and power imbalance, which extends into mediation. Therefore, “spirit of the mediation” is effectvely not meaningful.

Me too, at you know who

The charity sent QCs (their trustees) to mediation.

We have had sexual harassment victims report that they were treated completely differently on further days of mediation when they finally had a pro bono barrister by their side from their Inn of Court.

No more bitchy comments in mediation from the QCs towards victims such as “You seem to lack the emotional capacity to succeed at the Bar.” Of course, they made no comments about the harasser’s admitted conduct.

u

Mediation is about placing both sides on an equal footing. If there was a power imbalance then the mediation wasn’t done properly. ‘Entering into the spirit of the mediation’ is always meaningful in a proper mediation.

Anonymous

Still no need for barristers at mediation. A good mediator shouldn’t have allowed the QC’s behaviour. Not sure what you went through, but it wasn’t mediation.

Anonymous

Stop the mediation sales pitch. It is not a panacea to end sexual harassment.

What harassment victims have to go through between mediations, personal attacks, stalking, appeals, brush-offs and verbal abuse even years after the harassment is inexcusable.

I know the charity involved here and can confirm there’s been bullying and intimidation going on for years. They once had 3 CEOs in one year.

There’s a reason why you don’t see any barristers hanging around the office beyond chucking a virtual-signalling £50 in at the next panhandling drive.

f

A properly conducted mediation is the best way to resolve most ‘sexual harassment’ complaints.

In order for it to succeed, parties need to enter into it in good faith, drop the cloak of victimhood, and be committed to finding a resolution.

Anonymous

Go and grind your axe somewhere where it is relevant. If there is such a place.

ay

What axe? What comment are you referring to?

Anonymous

Ay, the posts above are a recurring and dull vendetta that seems to be churned out again and again on this site to the negative experiences of users. If the person with the problem has a valid complaint they can make it with the authorities rather than vomiting it out online. Axe. Grind. Stop.

Me too, at you know who

Anyone being harassed or bullied at the legal charity concerned is strongly encouraged to go to the relevant student officer at their Inn of Court.

We all know the charity has their ‘favourites’. We all know volunteers are not treated equally. Get a second opinion from a real barrister if they try and gaslight you about what’s going on in the office or give you the ‘like it or lump it’ line. Believe me, we know what they do.

There are barristers at your Inn who can speak to you on a pro bono basis about the abuse. You do not have to go into a mediation session with the charity alone and scared. You will not be the first person that barrister may have helped as so, so many volunteers have been affected down the years.

For all the claimant work they prepare for employment tribunals, it’s beyond irony how well they dish out the victimisation and harassment.

Never forget Oxfam and Amnesty International. You may be dealing with people who are virtually unemployable anywhere else. You may be dealing with people with very poor academics or a criminal background that would give anything to be you. Charities do not harbour saints.

You do not deserve the shouting, verbal threats to your legal career, months of waiting for a complaint to be heard or having your tribunal cases handed to other volunteers after you dare to defend yourself. Yes, it happened to us too.

We hope this reaches all those who need advice and support the most against the bullies in that office.

They didn’t break us. They won’t break you either.

(31)(0)

by

Mediation is a voluntary process. It needs both sides to enter into the spirit of the mediation. There is nothing to be afraid of in entering into a mediation unaccompanied, providing the mediator is competent.

It is difficult to comment on the allegations being made as they are not fully coherent (‘criminal background’?). Would need a detailed and cogent list of accusations, with evidence and the defence put forward, in order to reach a conclusion.

The whole thing does sound like something which should be resolved via mediation.

Me too, at you know who

By, what exactly do you propose someone should do if the other side does not fulfil the terms of a final agreement reached at mediation? What’s the point of going to mediation at all then?

In all seriousness, who exactly do you propose someone contact to say “The other side isn’t doing XYZ. At mediation, they signed a piece of paper promising they would undertake to do XYZ.”

Can you name a person they should approach? Because ‘Spirit of the mediation’ is meaningless if the other side rips up the mediation settlement after mediation and then kicks out the victims who have raised a harassment complaint.

You cannot approach the Charity Commission to report harassment at a charity. You may not have money as a BPTC student to approach the courts to ask a judge to ‘force’ the mediation settlement terms through.

People are being fobbed off with promises of magic after mediation, but are left exhausted by the process and possibly having achieved nothing. You literally cannot force the other side to do what they promised they would do after mediation.

We think mediation may be put on the table in the hope of wearing down harassment complainants even further. A potentially dangerous path that may further exploit and frighten vulnerable students.

my

Both sides need to enter into the spirit of the mediation in order for it to work.

If one side goes into without being willing to see the other’s point of view or with an overwhelming sense of victimhood then it will not work

tips@legalcheek.com

Wow there is even more anonymity now

(1)(0)

Concerned bystander

Why an app? Why not a website?

Apps are surely for those important functions, used regularly and accessed quickly.

This does not strike me as an issue which requires ‘one touch’ accessibility.

Maybe I’m just getting old.

(1)(0)

Albert Dershman

Given that Talk to Spot holds personal data outside the EU using it would seem contrary to the Bar Council’s and BSB’s own guidance, that being the guidance that told everyone they could not use Dropbox etc…

(3)(0)

Viva la Resistance

Surely… they have BCRs in place approved by the EU…

(0)(0)

Albert Dershman

Mmm. You can find more on this online.

“Jessy Irwin, a security expert and privacy advocate, called Spot’s privacy policy “a poorly thought-out and totally unreadable mess.” “Nothing they say about security is reassuring,” Irwin said in an email to Gizmodo. “The policy is poorly framed for the kind of data that they’re collecting, and they are quick to absolve themselves of the very real risks that may impact people using their app.”

And it goes on…

(5)(0)

b

What axe? What comment are you referring to?

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.

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