Barrister to appeal against BSB discrimination ruling

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22 December 2014


RCJ

Ms O’Connor said she would go on fighting for a “full hearing”

A barrister who claims she is the victim of racial discrimination by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has said she will appeal against last week’s High Court ruling that she has an arguable case but that it was brought out of time.

Portia O’Connor, the first barrister to become a partner in a legal disciplinary partnership, told Legal Futures: “I believe the way the BSB conducted itself was discriminatory and I’m not going to let this go until I get a full hearing.

“I may not win, but there should not be a situation where I am discriminated against, and my case is not heard.”

Ms O’Connor, who is black, is claiming compensation from the BSB for misfeasance in public office and breaching her human rights after five misconduct findings made against her by a disciplinary tribunal were overturned by the Visitors to the Inns of Court in August 2012.

In May this year Deputy Master Eyre struck out Ms O’Connor’s claim for compensation.

Mr Justice Warby ruled this week that her appeal against the deputy master’s strike out should be allowed in relation to one aspect of her human rights claim, but held that it failed on limitation grounds.

Ms O’Connor said she faced a £85,000 costs bill following the High Court ruling, and has been ordered to make a payment on account of £20,000 by the end of January.

“I am pleased with the finding that there was a case to answer for discrimination, but shocked by the limitation findings,” Ms O’Connor said.

She said that until August 2012, when the misconduct findings against her were overturned, she was still the subject of two separate investigations by the BSB. The barrister said that six months after the ruling by the Visitors, in February 2013, she launched her claim for compensation.

Ms O’Connor said there were other cases where the BSB had discriminated against ethnic minority lawyers.

“The BSB is applying different standards to me and other ethnic minority barristers when dealing with complaints and investigations.”

A BSB spokesperson commented: “We will respond appropriately to whatever court process we are informed of.”

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