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‘Vexatious’ barrister disbarred

The Bar: pupillage rules among those to be unsuccessfully challenged [1]

The Bar: pupillage rules among those to be unsuccessfully challenged

A barrister who brought 30 failed employment tribunal claims in four years, mainly against employers and recruiters for legal roles, and also the Bar Council over its pupillage rules, has been disbarred.

Last year, Mr Justice Mitting, sitting in the Employment Appeal Tribunal, acceded to an application from the Attorney General to make a ‘restriction of proceedings’ order against John Alexander Nwenu Iteshi to prevent him bringing further vexatious claims.

A Bar Disciplinary Tribunal ruled last week that Mr Iteshi “behaved in a way which was likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in the legal profession”.

Specifically it cited the fact that “he was made the subject of a restriction of proceedings order by a High Court judge under section 33 of the Employment Tribunals Act 1996 on the ground that he had habitually and persistently and without any reasonable ground instituted vexatious proceedings in an employment tribunal and before the appeal tribunal and made vexatious applications in both proceedings in both tribunals”.

Sara Jagger, director of professional conduct at the Bar Standards Board, said: “It is right the tribunal decided to disbar Mr Iteshi. His actions were an abuse of process and a persistent departure from the professional standards expected of all barristers. His conduct caused harm to the administration of justice and the reputation of the Bar.

“His continual filing of vexatious claims with employment tribunals illustrates a worrying lack of insight and there is nothing to suggest Mr Iteshi recognises the seriousness of his actions.

“The public interest was not served by Mr Iteshi’s blatant disregard for wasting judicial time and resources, which should be used to resolve genuine workplace disputes.”

Mitting J’s ruling described Mr Iteshi as “an intelligent and articulate man”. It continued: “He obtained a 2:2 first degree in psychology at the University of Nigeria, a Master’s degree in Employment Studies and Human Resources Management at the University of North London in 2003, a post-graduate Diploma in Law at London Metropolitan University in 2004. He completed the Bar Vocational Course in 2007 and was called to the Bar in October 2007.

“He was unable to obtain a pupillage or work in which he could put his legal knowledge to productive use. Instead, he has litigated on his own behalf, in all but one case in employment tribunals and on appeal to the Employment Appeal Tribunal and the Court of Appeal and, it seems, has also represented other litigants in employment cases in the tribunals.

“In the four years from 19 November 2007 until 16 November 2011 he made 30 claims in employment tribunals, mostly in London. One of them was against the Bar Council. Four were against his own employers, Transport for London and London Underground Ltd, and 25 were against recruitment agencies and employers recruiting staff, mostly in the public sector, mostly for positions in which legal qualifications or experience were required.

“All claims have alleged direct and indirect race discrimination. All but one [the claim against the Bar Council] have alleged at the start sex discrimination as well, and some have alleged victimisation. None has succeeded. Many have been struck out as having no reasonable prospect of success.”

The judge said the unsuccessful claims would have put all those against whom he brought action to expense “amounting in total to a substantial six-figure sum”.

The claim against the Bar Council was that the requirement for chambers to pay £5,000 to pupils in the first six months of pupillage and £5,000 in the second six months less fees received, indirectly discriminated against him on the grounds of race.

Mitting J said he had “never encountered and am unaware of any other case in which so many claims of this nature have been brought by one individual over a period of no more than four years”. The conditions for the making of an order under section 33 were satisfied, he found.

Though, at the time of the case, it had been more than two years since his last claim, the judge said he “would be reluctant to take the chance that Mr Iteshi has put litigation in the employment tribunal and Employment Appeal Tribunal behind him”.

Mitting J said: “Even if he had told me that he had seen the error of his ways, there would always be the possibility that he would revert to his former conduct. But the affidavit which he has sworn in these proceedings on 18 October 2013 demonstrates that he has, in truth, had no change of heart.

“He states in it that he has ‘demonstrably lost confidence in the employment tribunal system and refrained from pursuing any further claim within the very judicial system I have unequivocally ascertained to be a complete sham’.”

Mr Iteshi had also wanted to “highlight” to the court “the shamelessness of the crooked individuals hiding behind judicial immunity and their evil cloak of infallibility, who are pursuing this claim”.

The disciplinary tribunal’s ruling is open to appeal.