Sets to be “named and shamed' over equality

THE BAR Council is preparing to “name and shame” chambers that have failed to come clean about their equal opportunities policies after less than a quarter responded to an official survey on the issue.

Last June, 420 sets were asked if they had implemented the Bar Council's 1995 Equality Code but only 92 have replied. A reminder letter sent out last month has failed to produce a single response.

A spokeswoman for the Bar Council said the list of sets that have replied – and by implication those that have not – would be published later this year.

The Bar proudly unveiled the Equality Code in 1995, when it warned that if a chambers did not comply with the code it would count against them in any disciplinary proceedings.

Of the chambers responding to the survey, 80 per cent have confirmed that they have implemented key elements of the code, such as a structured interview process for pupils and ongoing monitoring of their progress.

Lincoln Crawford, chairman of the Bar's race relations committee, said he was “disappointed” by the response to the survey. But Stephen Graham, chairman of the Institute of Barristers' Clerks, said it was a mistake to assume that chambers which had not responded had not implemented the code.

He said: “It's a general trait of the Bar to be slow to return Bar Council forms.”

Previous attempts to monitor equality at the Bar have also been largely unsuccessful. Last year the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) asked sets for the ethnic origins of barristers undertaking CPS work but it received few replies.

More recently about half of the 50 chambers surveyed by civil liberties firm Bindman & Partners gave details of their equal opportunities practices.

Peter Herbert, chair of the Society of Black Lawyers, said: “This is a clear measure of the lack of emphasis given to equal opportunities at the Bar.”

He said he was pleased the Bar Council appeared prepared to “name and shame” those chambers which had not responded to the survey.

Herbert added: “Some senior figures, whose chambers have not responded to the survey, will be embarrassed by this.”