Anti-bullying training “should be compulsory for barristers”

Hayward: Barristers need bystander training

Training to prevent bullying and harassment should be compulsory for barristers, the leader of gender equality group Behind the Gown has said.

Stephanie Hayward, a criminal law barrister, said change was “driven by leadership” and was most powerful when senior members of the Bar, particularly men, “spoke out about these issues”.

Behind the Gown‘s mission is to tackle abuse of power at the Bar.

Ms Hayward, based at Deka Chambers, said bullying and harassment at the Bar was a “big problem” and barristers should be required to undertake some training on the issues, and on abuse of power, as part of their continuing professional development.

She said “bystander training” was particularly important. Speaking on high-profile feminist barrister Dr Charlotte Proudman’s Right to Equality podcast, Ms Hayward explained that her involvement in Behind the Gown was “precipitated by quite an unpleasant incident of abuse which I experienced”.

She said that when the abuse happened, in November 2017, what she found “noticeable and disappointing in a profession predicated on advocacy” was that none of the bystanders spoke out. “Nobody said anything, despite loud swearing in a court concourse.”

Ms Hayward said that, had it not been for the incident occurring “at a time when #MeToo was really kicking off across the Atlantic”, she would have probably not have joined Behind the Gown at its first meeting in November 2017.

“Bullying and harassment is a big problem for the Bar and training should be mandatory.”

Ms Hayward said change was driven by leadership, and described a statement made in July by Bar Council chair Nick Vineall KC in support of Dr Proudman over online abuse as “really inspiring and powerful”.

Praising also an article by Chris Henley KC, former chair of the Criminal Bar Association, on the problems faced by women at the criminal Bar, she referred to a comment from him that “it almost sounds better coming from a man”, and said: “I agree with him.”

On the issue of bullying of barristers by other barristers on social media, she said to Dr Proudman: “I can’t imagine what it’s like to be online and called some of the things you’ve been called. It’s important that people know that you can’t get away with disagreeing with colleagues simply by abusing them.

“I feel offended by what I’ve seen, on your behalf as well. We are better than that. It is an indictment on us if people think it is OK.”

Dr Proudman said she had felt “despair, frustration and at time infuriation” to see other members of the profession “speak with such disdain towards fellow members of the Bar”.

Ms Hayward and Dr Proudman argued last month that the Bar Standards Board’s latest social media guidance, which came into force in September, would do “little to protect women’s voices”.

Ms Hayward said that, as well as highlighting an individual’s right to expression under article 10, it should have highlighted how this freedom was “experienced differently by different genders”.

The right to “say things freely comes at risk, particularly for women, and the guidance should have addressed that”.

Earlier this month, the Bar Council described bullying, harassment and discrimination at the Bar as a “systemic” problem and said it would launch a profession-wide review to identify solutions.

    Readers Comments

  • ian josephs says:

    Barristers bully their clients and even gag them to stop them givingevidence in court.Barristers shoud therefore stop bullying their clients instead of worying if a nasty jusge say something in court that might hurt their precious professional feelings !

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