Bar sets new date for equality survey return

Chambers have been given 28 days to return Bar Council questionnaires about their equal opportunities policies after the Bar's AGM last week slated the 40 per cent response rate.

The Bar's race relations and sex discrimination committees will consider “naming and shaming” those sets who miss the 10 July deadline when they meet early next month.

More than 400 sets received questionnaires last June, asking whether they had implemented the Bar's equality code, but about 250 are still outstanding.

The ultimatum has led to a “steady trickle” of completed forms being returned last week.

Peter Herbert, chair of the Society of Black Lawyers who proposed the motion, said there were geographical discrepancies in the figures. London sets had returned about 35 per cent of forms but the worst circuit was the North East, with 28 per cent, while the best was Wales and Chester, with 78 per cent.

One barrister told the AGM that a comparison between the 90 per cent of sets who claimed to operate equal opportunities policies and the 40 per cent response rate illustrated a problem. Making sets return the forms simply gave everyone more “dross to sift through”.

Another survey of sets by the Crown Prosecution Service last year produced only a 20 per cent response. Director of Public Prosecutions Dame Barbara Mills QC told the AGM that she aimed to get a fuller response before she stood down from the post later this year.