Bar takes action to deal with harassment

A RAFT of measures to combat sexual harassment at the Bar, including a network of safe haven chambers for victimised barristers, has been welcomed by the Association of Women Barristers.

Bar vice-chair David Penry-Davey QC said he recognised the “significant barriers” women had encountered in the profession at a meeting of the women barristers' group last week.

He outlined a reform blueprint to tackle harassment at the meeting.

He announced the establishment of a telephone counselling hotline, barristers' panels to advise complainants and to mediate where possible and “safe haven” chambers to take on barristers who had been hounded out of their own chambers.

Penry-Davey also said chambers would be “strongly advised” to adopt their own internal procedures for handling complaints while measures to speed up the Bar's own complaints handling system were also under consideration.

The advice to chambers over complaints handling forms part of a new beefed-up Equality Code for Chambers which the Bar Council will be asked to adopt at its next meeting later this month.

AWB chair Barbara Hewson said she welcomed the proposals.

But she added: “Providing that it all happens it is very constructive. A lot of work has gone into this.”

She said there was a danger that people would rest on their laurels once the equality code had been passed.