‘Vexatious’ barrister loses High Court appeal against disbarment

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18 November 2016

High Court: no reason for finding decision wrong or unjust

High Court: no reason for finding decision wrong or unjust

A barrister who was disbarred after the Employment Appeal Tribunal made a ‘restriction of proceedings’ order (RPO) to prevent him bringing further vexatious claims, has had his appeal to the High Court rejected.

John Alexander Nwenu Iteshi 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.

A Bar Disciplinary Tribunal ruled last year that Mr Iteshi “behaved in a way which was likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in the legal profession”, in breach of Core Duty 5.

He appealed against what he called the “obnoxious” decision on multiple grounds, but Mr Justice Holroyde found no substance in any of them.

The judge noted that Mr Iteshi, who was called in 2007, had been unsuccessful in obtaining pupillage but that it was a “justifiable source of pride” to him that he was entitled to call himself a barrister. “It is clear that the order disbarring him has been a cause of great distress to Mr Iteshi.”

Mr Iteshi made a string of accusations about the integrity of the tribunal, the way non-practising barristers were supposedly ostracised, and the fairness of the sanction.

Though he considered them all in his ruling, Holroyde J dismissed them comprehensively.

On the claim of bias on the part of the tribunal, the judge said: “Contrary to his submissions, the tribunal was independent of the Bar Standards Board. There could be no appearance of bias arising merely from the fact that it is the body charged with the determination of allegations of professional misconduct.

“Applying the test in Porter v Magill, it cannot be said that an informed observer would have any grounds for believing that there was a real possibility that the tribunal, or any member of it, was biased against Mr Iteshi simply because a number of judges in the employment tribunals and Employment Appeal Tribunal had previously made rulings against him in the proceedings which he had commenced.

“Nor can it be said that the fact that Mr Iteshi has previously challenged the Bar Council in proceedings relating to the pupillage requirements gave rise to any appearance of bias.”

Holroyde J concluded: “I recognise that my decision will be a heavy blow for Mr Iteshi. I am however unable to find that the tribunal reached a wrong decision, or that their decision was unjust because of a serious procedural or other irregularity in the proceedings before them.

“Mr Iteshi brought upon himself the serious measure of the RPO. The tribunal were entitled to find that being made subject to that RPO was behaviour which amounted to a breach of Core Duty 5, and they were entitled to conclude that the sanction of disbarment was necessary and appropriate.”

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