Barrister reprimanded for “grossly offensive” messages to ex-partner

Instagram: Messages were meant to cause distress

A barrister who sent “grossly offensive” Instagram messages to his former partner following the breakdown of a “toxic” relationship has been reprimanded by a Bar disciplinary tribunal.

It said the messages sent by Rashvinderjeet Panesar were “essentially out of character”, and “the product of a private dispute rather than anything relating to his professional practice”.

The decision was made last November but only recently published.

The tribunal heard that the messages were all sent about the same time in early January 2021 to a woman he had formerly been in a relationship with.

Following the incident Mr Panesar, who was called in 2004, submitted to a conditional police caution and then promptly self-referred to the Bar Standards Board.

The tribunal said it had also seen “some further, unpleasant, but rather less offensive comments posted by him on TikTok” from the same time and directed to the same person.

It was clear that the relationship had “severely deteriorated and that there were difficult proceedings relating to matters consequential upon the breakdown of that relationship”.

There was also evidence that at the time the barrister had “spent a period with a low mood and heightened anxiety, from which he has since recovered with resolution of the proceedings and revival of his professional practice”.

Although the messages were “grossly offensive”, they were not part of a “prolonged course of misconduct”.

The tribunal accepted that the Mr Panesar was “reacting, albeit wrongly, to public and private denigration of him by the recipient of the messages”, and what he did was “essentially out of character”.

It was not behaviour that the public would expect from a professional, but it was “the product of a private dispute rather than anything relating to his professional practice”.

Mr Panesar admitted behaving in a way which could “reasonably be seen by the public to undermine his integrity” by sending lnstagram messages “of a grossly offensive nature for the purpose of causing distress or anxiety to Person A”.

He also admitted behaving in a way likely to diminish public trust and confidence in him and in the profession.

There was no direct evidence of the effect of the messages on the recipient, “who herself used social media to cause upset”, while Mr Panesar did not put them into the public domain.

The misconduct happened when the relationship was “clearly toxic” and he made an apology “which appears genuine and sincere”.

The tribunal said it did not “consider there to be any real risk of a repetition and there is in this case no need to address any other risks to the public”.

The barrister was reprimanded and ordered to pay costs of £2,100.

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