Barrister suspended for “sexual” touching without consent

Harassment: Touching was unwanted

A barrister who touched two individuals sexually has been suspended from practice for three months by a Bar disciplinary tribunal.

Craig Charles Tipper, a former solicitor who was called in 2018, behaved in a way which was likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in him or in the profession, the tribunal held.

The brief notice of the tribunal’s decision said that on the same day in June 2019 he intentionally touched two people, “the touching was sexual”, neither person consented to the touching, and Mr Tipper “did not reasonably believe” they were consenting.

He was banned for three months and ordered to pay costs of £900. The full decision of the tribunal, which will explain the circumstances and reasons for the sanction, has yet to be published.

A BSB spokesman said: “This conduct is entirely unacceptable and our decision to bring charges of professional misconduct against Mr Tipper demonstrates our commitment to taking action against such behaviour by members of the Bar”.

The tribunal’s decision is open to appeal.

Last week, a male barrister who told a junior female colleague that “I really wanted to smack your arse” – and then did so – was reprimanded and fined £6,000 by a tribunal, a sanction that has raised questions over its leniency. Again, the full reasons have yet to be published.

On Twitter, Kirsten Sjøvoll of Matrix Chambers said the decision sent a “disgusting message to women at the Bar”, while Emma Dixon of Blackstone Chambers said the disciplinary system had brought itself into disrepute.

According to Levins Solicitors, “the problem is with the guidance, which suggests disbarment is only appropriate where there has been a conviction for a ‘serious’ sexual offence. It needs to be looked at urgently”.

CrimeGirl, a leading Twitter account from an anonymous barrister, said: “We have a right to feel safe at the Bar. We have a right to expect barristers who sexually abuse & attack to be disbarred. Lenient sentences such as fines and suspensions will deter victims. The public should NOT have to google barristers to check that we are not dangerous.”

Having tweeted about this and other cases where she argued the male barristers involved should not be practising, she wrote later: “Sadly, my DMs are now teeming with messages from women, law students & counsel telling me that they have experienced sexual harassment, sexual assault and in one case rape at the hands of senior male barristers. None of them dealt with properly when reported.”

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