Derek Sweeting QC, Chair of the Bar Council, said of the current Bar Tribunals Adjudication Service review into sanctions for barristers:
“The Bar Tribunals Adjudication Service (BTAS) should not miss this opportunity to make sanctions against sexual harassment at the Bar a genuine deterrent. Many of the proposals put forward by BTAS will go some way towards sending a clear message to the Bar that sexual harassment will not be tolerated and will help to ensure there is confidence in the sanctions regime. But we have urged BTAS to look again at some of the less robust elements of the proposals. These include the mitigating factors to be considered when deciding on the seriousness of sanctions for sexual harassment. Whether an apology is genuine should not be taken for granted and would need considerably more scrutiny for it to be considered a factor in each case. Whether an incident is a one-off or short-lived should not be a reason for reducing sanctions. It sends entirely the wrong message to the general public and the profession about how an incident of sexual harassment, which can have a devastating effect on the confidence of the victim, is dealt with at the Bar.
“We hope that BTAS takes these points into consideration. We know that many barristers who face sexual harassment in their professional capacity do not report it for fear of how it will impact on their careers. The risk here is that the Bar will not have confidence in the way sexual harassment is dealt with and that it remains under the radar and unreported.”