BSB probing barrister who tweeted about “stroppy teenager of colour”

Holbrook: Free speech argument

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) is taking action against the barrister who caused a storm of outrage by tweeting about “the stroppy teenager of colour”.

Jon Holbrook has confirmed that he is being investigated over 18 tweets which led to him being expelled from his chambers, although he said he had resigned four days earlier.

He had responded to an Equality and Human Rights Commission tweet about a Black girl, Ruby Williams, who was sent home from school because her Afro-style hair breached its uniform policy and then successfully challenged it under the Act.

Mr Holbrook’s initial tweet said: “The Equality Act undermines school discipline by empowering the stroppy teenager of colour.”

The BSB does not comment on investigations, but Mr Holbrook said it alleged his tweet was “designed to demean or insult a teenager and which may be considered distasteful or offensive by others”.

The second charge was that, between 25 March 2019 and 1 November 2020, he posted 17 tweets “which were designed to demean or insult others including Muslims, homosexuals and women and which tweets may be considered distasteful or offensive by others”.

These were said to have the potential to undermine his integrity and the public trust.

Mr Holbrook – who describes himself as the “barrister cancelled for challenging the woke” and is UKIP’s free speech spokesman – has made public his 33-page response to the allegations.

In it, he said Ruby’s mother, Kate Williams, had complained both about his tweet and also two articles he wrote on the same subject for The Conservative Woman website and magazine The Critic, as well as a YouTube interview he gave.

He wrote: “You have dismissed these non-Twitter complaints after noting that ‘a barrister is entitled to express his or her opinion about the law and its application to legal cases’.

“The BSB’s dismissal of the non-Twitter complaints but not the Twitter complaints is itself interesting because the points I made in all my public statements are all of a piece.

“The only difference between Twitter and non-Twitter is that Twitter does not allow for elaboration. The medium’s constraint has caused the BSB to disregard the broader political canvas on which I have posted tweets.”

Mr Holbrook argued that the BSB was interfering with his freedom of speech and that the regulator was “taking sides in a political argument”.

He went on: “Moreover, because the BSB is, I contend, a salaried wing of the woke it finds it difficult not just to comprehend my politics, but to actually even see it. Accordingly, the BSB has not seen the political messaging of my 18 tweets but sees instead, abuse directed at people with protected characteristics.”

The barrister said his tweets were targeting “identity politics and its harmful effect on society” rather than individuals with protected characteristics.

He accused the BSB of trying to silence him. “You will not succeed, as I suspect you know, but of course, you will succeed in silencing others.

“The net effect of your actions being to reinforce the view that the Bar is led and regulated by woke bureaucrats who loathe free speech when it is exercised by those on the centre-right who challenge the quasi religion of identity politics.”

    Readers Comments


    Silly man, this Jon Holbrook. Why make a fool out of him when he’s done a very good job himself?

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