Barrister embroiled in trans rights row raises £60,000 to sue Stonewall despite CrowdJustice briefly taking her page down

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By CJ McKinney on

Allison Bailey to include her own chambers in the discrimination action

Garden Court Chambers barrister Allison Bailey

A lesbian barrister has raised £60,000 to sue the LGBT rights charity Stonewall despite the fundraising page being briefly pulled by the CrowdJustice platform.

Allison Bailey also wants to include her own chambers, leading human rights set Garden Court, in the discrimination action after it reportedly upheld a complaint against her by Stonewall. The chambers says that the proposed claim is “without merit”.

Over the weekend, CrowdJustice halted donations to the page but then opened it back up with the original text replaced by a statement from CrowdJustice. Bailey’s text was critical of what it describes as “new trans activism”; the CrowdJustice version says that the page had been the subject of “serious complaints”.

Despite the brief suspension and the replacement text, the crowdfunder has already met its £60,000 stretch target. CrowdJustice has now closed it to further donations.

The context of the case is the ongoing dispute between transgender activists and women’s rights campaigners. The “Terf wars” recently saw a Labour MP apologise for an article in which he accused Harry Potter author JK Rowling of “using her own sexual assault” to justify discrimination against trans people.

Bailey, who describes herself as a feminist, a lesbian and a lifelong LGBT campaigner, thinks that making it easier for people born men to self-identify as women is dangerous for women and a threat to feminism. She says that “if the new trans activism is not brought to heel, women will disappear as a political class”.

She and like-minded supporters have set up a rival organisation to Stonewall, accusing the well-established charity of losing its way by “conflating sex with gender”. Critics accuse the LGB Alliance of being transphobic; Bailey denies it, saying “I have always been an advocate for transgender rights”.

Bailey’s chambers became embroiled in the dispute last October, when she tweeted that “gender extremism is about to meet its match”. Garden Court replied that “we are investigating concerns raised about Allison Bailey’s comments… We take these concerns v seriously & will take all appropriate action”.

The criminal defence barrister says that Stonewall had made the complaint about her, alleging that it “included a threat that Stonewall’s relationship with chambers would be damaged unless chambers took action against me”.

The complaint, she says, was upheld. That led to Bailey’s proposed employment tribunal action:

“It alleges that I have been indirectly discriminated against because both my chambers and Stonewall treat people such as me who hold gender critical beliefs as being bigoted and unworthy of respect. Those people are overwhelmingly women. This treatment is therefore indirectly discriminatory against women.”

Although barristers are not employed by their chambers, section 47 of the Equality Act 2010 says that barristers must not victimise or discriminate against their tenants. There is also a section allowing third parties to be sued.

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A Stonewall spokesperson said:

“We work with a diverse range of organisations through our Diversity Champions programme to give advice on tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic discrimination and how they can be more inclusive of LGBT people. While we aren’t able to comment on individual cases, we know it’s vital businesses take active steps in creating equality for all lesbian, gay, bi and trans people”.

A crowdfunder to instruct specialist employment lawyers was launched on Saturday morning. It had raised £48,000 in six hours, before being suspended by CrowdJustice at around 2pm.

That night, the platform reopened the page to donations but put its own statement up in place of the original text. It reads:

“We have had complaints about some of the content of Allison Bailey’s case page and because of the serious nature of the complaints we followed our policy to take the page down while it was reviewed in detail against our Terms.

CrowdJustice stands for access to justice for everyone. We support Ms Bailey’s right to access justice and for her case to be heard in court.

We know that there are thousands of you who want to support Ms Bailey’s legal fight. CrowdJustice does not take a view of her legal action — the courts should decide. While we address our concerns about the content of the CrowdJustice case page with the case owner and her lawyers, we have replaced the original CrowdJustice page with this statement so that she can continue to accept donations”

Bailey said that she is “in the process of determining precisely what happened” and would not be commenting further in the meantime.

Despite the platform’s intervention, by 9am on Sunday the page had reached a “stretch target” of £60,000, three times the original target.

CrowdJustice has now closed it to further donations, although other pages on the site have been allowed to carry on beyond the stretch target. The platform’s website says: “Please note: your page will not close once you hit your Stretch Target, you will be able to keep accepting donations”. But the CrowdJustice terms and conditions reserve the right to “suspend or terminate an active Case Page at any time, at our sole discretion and without notice”.

A spokesperson for Garden Court Chambers said: “We are aware that Allison Bailey intends to bring a claim jointly against Stonewall and Garden Court Chambers Ltd in the Employment Tribunal. This claim has yet to be issued and formally served. We strongly refute any claim that we have acted unlawfully or in any way colluded with Stonewall. We consider these allegations to be groundless and the claim to be without merit”.

They added: “Allison Bailey is not an employee of Garden Court Chambers but is and remains a member of Chambers.”

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