Judge dismisses barrister's race case as vexatious

A BARRISTER'S allegations that a set of chambers subjected her to a campaign of racial discrimination have been described variously as as “scandalous, frivolous or vexatious” by a county court judge.

At Central London County Court last week, Judge Quentin Edwards QC struck out Joy Okoye's action against her former set, Staple Inn Chambers.

Okoye, who has pledged to launch an appeal, was attempting to become the first barrister ever to bring a racial discrimination action against her chambers.

In a county court summons, she had alleged the set's senior clerk, Brian Monument, had caved in to a law firm's refusal to accept her services due to her “African sounding name” and she was then victimised when she complained.

The summons also named tenants Nicholas Nichols, Mahmud Aslam and Andrea Brown and the set's management board as defendants. They were accused of breaching the Race Relations Act.

The case was thrown out by a district judge in March, but Okoye appealed with the backing of the Commission for Racial Equality.

Judge Edwards, however, backed the original decision, and ruled that her allegations were either vexatious, an abuse of process or disclosed no reasonable cause of action.

In a reserved judgment, he said it would be “unreasonable and oppressive” for the defendants to undergo disclosure and reveal details of their fee books and diaries.

Although he acknowledged there was an argument that a “liberal construction” should be put on the strength of Okoye's case to allow her her “day in court”, he stressed she was an experienced barrister who had received help from the CRE.

Monument said he was pleased the case had been resolved but “saddened” it had ever taken place. He said he had never been influenced by racial considerations.

Okoye said: “I will fight this even if I have to take it to the European Court of Justice.”

Makbool Javaid, of the CRE, said it was deciding whether to support a further appeal.

He added: “By their nature racial discrimination allegations are difficult to prove, and to strike out this case at this stage is a very draconian step to take.”