Anonymous reporting tool to aid barristers facing harassment

Harassment: Bar Council will use data

Barristers will be able to make anonymous reports of bullying and harassment by their colleagues and judges after the Bar Council signed up to an online tool to aid the profession.

Talk to Spot will allow barristers to talk through and record contemporaneously inappropriate moments at work.

They can then choose to either save the report for their own reference, or print the report and send it to their chambers, their employer, or other bodies. They can also submit the report to the Bar Council.

Nobody, including the Spot team, will see what a barrister puts on the app, unless they decide to submit a report – but even then it can be anonymous.

A Bar Council spokeswoman said that, in the event of its receiving an anonymous report, it would contact the barrister, who could remain anonymous, and guide them on the options and support available, including formal reporting to either the Bar Standards Board (BSB) or Judicial Conduct Investigations Authority.

This would require the barrister to shed their anonymity.

She said that, if a perpetrator was named, the Bar Council would check if others had done the same and, if so, “we would strongly encourage the complainant to make a complaint to, for example, chambers or the BSB”.

The spokeswoman added that it would also use anonymous reports “to monitor what is happening across the Bar and guide us in developing interventions, guidance and training”.

A report on harassment and bullying published earlier this year by the International Bar Association included a recommendation to utilise “new/flexible reporting models” such as Talk to Spot.

The BSB’s annual enforcement report last year showed that reports of sexual harassment at the Bar were not turning into formal complaints.

Among its initiatives in this area is a pilot scheme under which groups of specially trained barristers can seek permission for the requirement to report harassment directly to the BSB to be waived in certain, clearly defined circumstances.

This recognises that the requirement on a barrister being aware of such misconduct to report it may actual discourage victims from coming forward.

Last year, Bar Council research said 21% of employed and 12% of self-employed barristers reported that they had personally experienced harassment or bullying at work in the two years prior to the survey.

In the Bar Standards Board’s Women at the Bar report in 2016, 40% of 1,300 women said they had experienced harassment, but the vast majority failed to report it.

Talk to Spot will become available to the Bar later this month.

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