Barrister “could and should” have stopped offensive tweets being sent

Bennett: Proceedings have taken a heavy toll

A barrister reprimanded for allowing a Twitter account to send “inappropriate and offensive” tweets to a colleague at the same chambers was not their author, a tribunal has confirmed.

However, Daniel Bennett was aware they were being posted and admitted that he could, and should, have stopped them appearing.

We reported last week that Mr Bennett had also been fined £500 for seven tweets directed at Adam Wagner over nine months in 2018-19.

Mr Bennett resigned from London set Doughty Street Chambers in 2019 after his role in the @arrytuttle account was uncovered.

Known as Harry Tuttle, the name of a character played by Robert De Niro in the film Brazil, the now-deleted account was apparently characterised by aggressive support for Jeremy Corbyn and attacks on Jewish people questioning anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

The full ruling of the Bar Tribunal and Adjudication Service explaining its decision has now been published. The panel, headed by His Honour James Meston KC, said it was accepted that Mr Bennett was not the author of the offending tweets.

“The author must have been one of the undisclosed number of people who, along with Mr Bennett, were parties to the Twitter account,” it said.

“Mr Bennett has admitted that the allowed them to be tweeted in that he was a party to that account and was aware that they were being posted and that he could, and should, have stopped them appearing.

“He therefore failed to prevent those tweets as he could have done and he failed to dissociate himself from them when he could have done. The tribunal are therefore satisfied that he failed to take any such positive action as might have been required or expected.

However, Mr Bennett explained that the content of the tweets, in so far as they were concerned with anti-semitism, reflected his own “strongly held” views.

“He accepts that the offensive and abusive terms of the tweets crossed the line for acceptable communication and that his failure to act was the result of a significant loss of perspective on his part at the relevant time.”

The tribunal described the tweets as “seriously and personally offensive in content”. While it was not possible to assess the extent to which they were disseminated, it noted that Mr Wagner had himself contributed to their distribution by retweeting them.

Mr Wagner told the tribunal that the tweets caused him “considerable anxiety and unwelcome attention, particularly as he was at the time a relatively new member of the same chambers as Mr Bennett”.

In reaching a decision on sanction, the tribunal highlighted as mitigation the fact that the tweets appeared more than three years ago, Mr Bennett resigned from chambers “without much delay”, he had supplied “impressive references” and he otherwise had a clean disciplinary record.

It also accepted that the proceedings have taken “a heavy toll” on the barrister in various ways, “both personally and professionally”.

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