Barrister reprimanded and fined for mocking more junior opponent

Misconduct: Events occurred during two-day employment tribunal hearing

A barrister who mocked opposing counsel in her submissions to an employment tribunal and sighed loudly while her opponent was speaking has been reprimanded and fined.

A Bar disciplinary tribunal said Althea Sonia Brown, called in 1995, “improperly undermined, insulted and/or annoyed” opposing counsel, who was more junior to her, and their solicitor.

As well as a reprimand, Ms Brown – who practises at Doughty Street Chambers – was fined £1,500 and ordered to pay costs of £5,820. She still has time to appeal the decision.

The Bar Tribunals & Adjudication Service has only published the outline details of the offences at this stage, rather than the complete ruling.

These said that, in the course of her submissions to the employment tribunal in September 2019, Ms Brown alleged that the opposing barrister, ‘NC’, had made an untruthful statement to the tribunal, “without reasonable basis”.

Further, she mocked NC by “on one or more occasions repeating the words used by NC, adopting a noticeably different and disrespectful tone of voice to her usual tone of voice, accompanied by exaggerated body language”.

She compared NC’s submissions to the famous words of Violet Bott, from the Just William books: “I’m going to scream and scream until I’m sick.”

In doing so, Ms Brown was “imputing without reasonable basis that NC was behaving in a juvenile and/or petulant manner”.

She was also accused of imitating NC by silently mouthing her words when the judge was not looking – something she did to NC’s instructing solicitor too, in an exaggerated way – “and/or calling NC by the wrong name and/or pronouncing NC’s name in an insulting tone of voice”.

Further, Ms Brown told the employment tribunal that NC had a “fundamental intellectual difficulty” and an “inability to grasp” the case that Ms Brown was putting.

Ms Brown was accused of distracting NC and/or the judge throughout the two-day hearing by “repeatedly gesturing in an exaggerated and/or audible way and/or sighing loudly” during NC’s submissions, as well as repeatedly speaking over NC and the judge, and making repeated reference to her seniority over NC.

The Bar tribunal said Ms Brown had failed to observe her duty to the court, had acted unprofessionally and her conduct was likely to diminish public trust.

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