21 September 2019

Harassment is serious misconduct

Last month we reminded you of the rC66 duty on all barristers to report promptly if you have reasonable grounds to believe there has been serious misconduct by barristers, managers or employees of BSB entities, and others. We provided links to the Reporting Serious Misconduct form and the guidance on reporting serious misconduct of others.

Under gC96.2, serious misconduct includes harassment. In addition, rC110.3.j sets a requirement that each chambers or BSB entity must have a written anti-harassment policy. Under rule C69, you cannot be victimised for making in good faith a report of serious misconduct.

We understand that reporting serious misconduct of a colleague is often very difficult, and the guidance provides some advice as to how best to fulfil your duty in this regard, as well as assurance as to how we will deal with sensitive reports.

You should note that we take allegations of sexual harassment very seriously and have systems and procedures in place to address any such complaints. We will approach all allegations of sexual harassment as sensitively as possible and will apply our procedures fairly and appropriately. We will take action if there is evidence of a breach of regulated persons' professional obligations and will not hesitate to take forward disciplinary proceedings as necessary.

We have been consistent in our efforts towards eliminating harassment at the Bar. Last year, following the publication of an extensive survey which resulted in our "Women at the Bar" report, Dr Vanessa Davies, wrote a letter to all the Heads of Chambers asking them to ensure that their equality policies reflected the standards we expect.

The Women at the Bar report makes clear that the experiences of women at the Bar are significantly better in chambers where equality and anti-harassment policies are in place.