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Bar group looks to tackle workplace abuse with ‘active bystanders’

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All Rise project creates special pin badge as visible sign of support

A group of barristers are hoping to tackle abusive behaviour at the bar with the launch of a new initiative encouraging their peers to be “active bystanders”.

The All Rise project calls on barristers to speak up when they see “abusive, bullying and belittling behaviour” at work.

It follows recent controversy about the bar disciplinary tribunal handing down lenient sanctions for sexual misconduct.

Four barristers are behind the project: Bo Kay Fung from the Financial Conduct Authority, Chris Gutteridge of Exchange Chambers, Lydia Pemberton of 3 Paper Buildings and Morayo Fagborun Bennett of Hardwicke.

The foursome want their learned friends to “step up and actively create a better culture through standing up and speaking against bullying, harassment, belittling and discriminatory behaviour”.

They’ve designed an All Rise pin badge (pictured below) for barristers to wear as a visible indication that they won’t have it, and are prepared to step in to support victims. The pin (eco-friendly, naturally) comes with a bookmark with the project’s aims. The organisers hope that 25% of barristers will eventually sport the pins.

The All Rise pin badge

Actually producing that many will cost £5,000, which the group is fundraising for. The project has raised £1,800 so far, with silks Jo Delahunty, Jaime Hamilton and Brie Stevens-Hoare (below) among the early contributors.

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All Rise co-founder Gutteridge explained the thinking behind the initiative:

“There have been a number of decisions handed down by Bar Disciplinary Tribunals in recent months concerning sexual assault and harassment by barristers. The details of one of those cases suggested that the offending barrister acted in the presence of other barristers without fear of repercussions. In fact, the junior barrister he assaulted said that she felt unable to say anything whilst she was being assaulted because she did not want to make a scene in front of senior members of the bar who were present at that event. This is, in a word, appalling. It casts a shadow over the whole profession”.

He added: “We appreciate this is a small first step on the long road to tackling a very big problem, but nevertheless, we think it will create more ‘active bystanders’ at the Bar and act as a visual deterrent to potential abusers.”

Bar disciplinary bods are recommending tougher penalties for abusive behaviour, acknowledging the outcry over the perceived leniency of existing guidelines. Under proposals put forward last month, sexual misconduct, discrimination and non-sexual harassment would all attract a minimum sanction of 12 months’ suspension.

The Bar Tribunals & Adjudication Service says that this would be “a significant increase in the recommended sanctions as compared to the current Guidance”. A consultation on the move runs until 14 June 2021.

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