There can be “no excuse” for a barrister suggesting that a female Asian judge only secured her position as a result of positive discrimination, a Bar disciplinary tribunal has ruled.
The remarks were “wholly contrary to the Bar’s commitment to equality and diversity”, it said.
We reported last month that Timothy Becker was reprimanded and fined £750 for making the comment in an email to the claimant in a civil case in which he was acting for the defendant on a public access basis.
Mr Becker insisted that he was only referring to what he thought was the deputy district judge’s qualification as a solicitor.
The tribunal’s ruling has now been published and showed that, up until the morning of the hearing, the barrister did not think his words could be construed as racist or sexist.
It said: “Up until then he had, to use of words of [his counsel Marc Beaumont] in mitigation, ‘been making excuses’.”
The tribunal continued: “There can be no excuse for a member of the Bar to make such a statement, still less to make it in the course of litigation.
“The remarks were rude and wholly contrary to the Bar’s commitment to equality and diversity.”
The fact that Mr Becker had conceded that “a reasonable reader would have understood his remarks… as a reference to her sex and/or race”, and admitted he had diminished trust in the profession, meant the tribunal did not have to decide “what meaning Mr Becker actually intended to convey”.
In mitigation, the tribunal took into account that it was an isolated incident and the barrister had a clean disciplinary record. “We also take into account his testimonials and that finally today he has admitted the charge.”
Mr Becker – who chairs the Public Access Bar Association – is head of Burlington Chambers in Piccadilly, central London, which he set up at the start of this year, and was called in 1992.
In his statement after the initial announcement of the sanction, he said he was “rightly reprimanded”.
He pointed to his “long-standing commitment to equality and diversity at the Bar” and pointed out that he was not accused of unlawful race or sex discrimination.