Female barristers call for action on discrimination and harassment

A recent report published by the Association of Women Barristers (AWB) has made recommendations to tackle discrimination and harassment at the criminal bar.

The report is entitled ‘In the Age of ‘Us Too’: Moving Towards a Zero-Tolerance Attitude to Harassment and Bullying at the bar’ and outlines recommendations following a roundtable event discussing the issue of retaining women and other underrepresented groups at a senior level at the bar.

Recommendations include long-term support for victims of harassment as well as recruiting male “champions” to counter a gentlemanly culture where it is inappropriate to highlight unacceptable behaviour by other barristers.

Mandatory training for judges is one of the recommendations made by the report, as well as improved flexible working policies, while it also highlighted a lack of facilities for underrepresented groups in court centres, such as for breastfeeding mothers or individuals who identify as gender non-binary.

The report found that women are more likely to be overlooked for leading briefs, while bullying and harassment is a serious concern, with many fearing that reporting an incident would be damaging for their career.

Lynne Townley, AWB Chair and co-author of the report, said: “Data shows the rates of women practising at the bar drops dramatically after five and 10 years’ call as women leave to take on childcare or caring responsibilities.

“So the bullying and harassment we know to be rife will only compound the problem of retaining women in senior positions. Black and minority ethnic women and members of the LGBT community are particularly vulnerable and affirmative steps must be taken so the bar at all levels represents the diversity of our country.”

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Donna Martin

Donna Martin

Partner at Mackrell.Solicitors
Donna Martin is a Partner in the Employment team at Mackrell.Solicitors’ London office. She advises both employers and employees on a full range of contentious and non-contentious issues. As an employment law expert, Donna has significant experience in drafting employment contracts and handbooks, advising on grievance and disciplinary procedures and preparatory work prior to tribunals, including advising on the advantages and disadvantages of settling cases.