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Courts service apologises to Black pupil barrister mistaken for defendant twice in one day

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HMCTS ‘deeply sorry’ for treatment of Garden Court’s Luke McClean

The courts service has apologised to a Black pupil barrister after its staff assumed he was the defendant twice on the same day.

Luke McClean, a pupil at Garden Court Chambers, tweeted on 11 December: “Just another day… mistaken as the Defendant in the Magistrates Court by the list caller…”

The tweet provoked a wave of supportive comments, with Garden Court commending the City Law School grad for “calling out this racist incident”.

It’s now emerged that the authorities have apologised to McClean for how he was treated.

A HM Courts and Tribunals Service spokesperson said:

“We are deeply sorry for Mr McLean’s unacceptable experience, and remain completely committed to playing our part in tackling discrimination.

We know there is more to do – open forums are already being held to improve our understanding of the challenges minority ethnic colleagues face and race awareness training is being extended for all staff”.

The courts service is rolling out mandatory race awareness training for all staff, as well as working on a “Race Action Plan”.

The Guardian reports that the pupil was mistaken for the defendant at the administration desk as well as by the list caller. McLean said of the latter: “He didn’t ask if I was the barrister, or the probation officer. I could have been anybody. But the first assumption he makes is that I’m the defendant”.

Around 3.2% of barristers and 3.4% of pupil barristers are Black, according to the Bar Standards Boards, while the proportion of Black QCs is 1.1%. The working-age population of the UK is 3.7% Black.

One Black silk, Professor Leslie Thomas, called McClean’s experience “totally unacceptable”, adding “this has been happening as long as I have been a barrister”.

In September mixed-race junior barrister Alexandra Wilson made a formal complaint after being mistaken for defendant three times in one day.

Earlier this year, the wife of a barrister at 25 Bedford Row wrote of his battles with racism on the job in a viral Facebook post.

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24 Comments

Corporate lad lad lad

Without coming across as snobby, my limited experience of the court system was that although so many high level people work in it, the actual administrators (security, receptionists, telephone staff) are very (very) low level and very rude. The RCJ is a complete joke to get anything done, so I can only imagine what it is like at the small courts. It won’t surprise me that they don’t actually look at the person properly before making assumptions, and they won’t ask ‘how can I help you sir’, a very clear and polite open ended question to avoid embarrassment. I’m guessing as a bazza this guy rocks up with one of those rolling briefcases, wearing at least a Charles Tyrwhitt suit (although I hope better), yet the assumption is that he is heading to the dock.

(18)(54)

FlourPour

When you said “without coming across as snobby”….

(19)(33)

Anon

Shocking stuff. Thoughts with the people, and fair play for calling them out, as he should be.

(21)(82)

Xi

LC are now editing comments before approving for moderation… Actual CCP stuff going on here. Pathetic

(7)(0)

Anon

We must not question the woke agenda. We must pray at the altar of diversity and watch and whoop with joy as the dreams of working class white boys are sacrificed thereupon. We must accept without question all allegations of sexism and racism and any challenge to the woke must be acknowledged immediately as being in and of itself sexist and racist.

(35)(6)

Anon

Why is it an insult to be assumed a defendant?

Does Mr McLean consider ordinary litigants to be a lesser class of people than high and mighty barristers?

(71)(26)

Jef

Quite. And Defendants are innocent until proven guilty. So what is the problem?

(35)(9)

A defendant

Well I sure want to be represented by a barrister who feels insulted when the staff think he’s me.

(38)(2)

Anon

You are very disingenuous

(13)(34)

Random passer by

Look at the thumbs up and down on this thread. You can see its being spammed by bigots. Its often the closet racists who do this, but occasionally the loony left do it too.

(17)(42)

Anon

No, the thumbs represent the views of the silenced majority sick of all this woke “diversity” nonsense. Sadly, their views are censored so the real debate that needs to happen is never allowed.

(34)(8)

Random passer by

Yeah sure. Wake up this morning and my comment is 8-0 as it was last night. By 10.30 there are 24 dislikes and no additional likes in the space of 2 hours. We aren’t stupid and have seen this on other comments too. Your comment has 6 likes after 30 minutes.

Anon

Odd, 10.32, because I gave your comment the thumbs down it deserved yesterday evening and plenty of others had done so by then too.

Where’s your pupillage?

Pathetic.

You’d be spitting blood if your child were known as “The Defendant”.

(13)(30)

Racist are stupid

Because it’s assuming all Black people in a courthouse are criminals. Subtle racism is still racism. BTW this doesn’t happen to white barristers.

(21)(53)

Pascal

Great fade, mate

(10)(1)

Anon

True story – I’m as white and middle class and they come and even I was assumed to be the defendant at my first time in court. Never happened since.

You can’t just assume this is racism, although there’s a good chance it might be. The fact that some court staff are absolutely useless, specifically the externa security, might have something to do with it.

(24)(1)

BCC

Why ‘deeply sorry’? Why not just ‘sorry’? Why grovel for a relatively minor error?

(14)(4)

Anonymouse

I can easily see this happening but I doubt there is any racial element to it.

I suspect it is more about appearance generally. I know there has been a snotty comment above about cheap suits but there is a reason why most barristers dress in a slightly distinctive way. If you wear a conventional single-breasted suit (particularly with a colourful shirt and a loud tie) you will look utterly indistinguishable from many Defendants who decide to wear a suit to court. Your experience will be very different if you wear a three piece suit (especially with the characteristically loud pinstripe), a starched white shirt and a sensible tie. You will have a very different experience not because this way of dressing is better but because it fits with people’s mental shorthand for what they think a barrister looks like.

I also struggle to see that any barrister should be offended if a member of court staff mistakes them for the Defendant. The job requires a thick skin. If a case is being called on, the court is missing the Defendant, you happen to be standing near a courtroom, and you are not wearing a stab vest or gown, you bet the usher will ask. What are they supposed to do – not ask, for fear of causing offence, and call on the case? There is also no stigma inherent to being a Defendant. Many Defendants (particularly in the magistrates’ court) will prove to be entirely innocent.

(39)(4)

Yawn

…writes the privileged white person who has no experience of what it is like for a black junior barrister.

(9)(34)

Anonymous

Cancelitis. You must listen to me, I do not need to listen to you.

(21)(0)

Anon

Thank you for your racist contribution to this discussion. We shall take it under consideration.

(18)(1)

Shruggie Otis

Yawn, if I am mixed race do I understand everything or nothing?

(8)(0)

Anonymous

These comments are disappointing. I hope none of these anonymous people actually work in the legal profession.

(5)(24)

Comments are closed.

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