Garden Court Chambers complains to Chief Executive of HMCTS about the practice of black lawyers being mistaken for defendants

Tuesday 22 December 2020

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Following Garden Court’s pupil, Luke McLean, tweeting “Just another day... mistaken as the Defendant in the Magistrates Court by the list caller...” Garden Court Chambers has written to the Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Services (HMCTS). We point out that this is not an isolated incident, referring to Luke’s own experience, those of barrister Alexandra Wilson and to the experience of barristers of colour at Garden Court, over decades.

We urge HMCTS to take immediate steps to carry out a thorough investigation as to why this type of conduct continues to occur and to identify its causes, so that effective action can finally be taken. All court staff including managers, lawyers and the judiciary must be fully aware of their duties under the Equality Act 2010 and of their obligations to ensure an inclusive working environment where such racially discriminatory attitudes and conduct are addressed and eliminated.  Where such attitudes and conduct do occur, accountability for them should rest not just with the individual staff member, but with the senior staff and judges i.e. those with a leadership role in the court.  The HMCTS must also commit itself to encouraging reporting, recording and monitoring of such incidents with strict instructions to be sent out and a rolling training and programme of compliance put in place. Garden Court has also raised the implications of this conduct for all people of colour who attend court hearings whether as Defendants,  litigants or witnesses and urges urgent action to address structural race discrimination in and before the law.

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