Staple Inn tenant claims race bias

A SET of chambers has been accused of racial discrimination by a black tenant who claims it caved in to a law firm's refusal to accept her services due to her “African sounding name” and then victimised her when she complained.

Joy Okoye, a family expert of 14 years call, claims Brian Monument, the senior clerk at Staple Inn Chambers, London, agreed to pass the firm's brief to a very junior colleague after the firm had rejected her.

She alleges she had originally been offered as the most suitable barrister but the following day the unnamed firm's senior partner had “unequivocally stated” she could not be used because of the sound of her name.

The clerk's alleged decision to divert the set of instructions breached the Race Relations Act 1976, a summons issued by Okoye at the Central London County Court claims.

The accusation is just one of many levelled at Monument along with several members of the of set's tenants. Nicholas Nichols, Mahmud Aslam and Andrea Brown are also named as defendants as well as the set's management board.

Okoye, whose action is backed by the Commission for Racial Equality, claims her practice was obstructed in a variety of ways by Monument, who she accuses in the summons of “failing to promote and nurture her practice”.

When she complained to fellow tenants they tried to humiliate her and “oust” her from the chambers, and failed to address the issues, it is claimed.

A trial date is yet to be set for the hearing but in a separate action in the High Court, Okoye and the chambers have been ordered to submit to arbitration proceedings.

This follows her claims that requests for arbitration under the terms of the set's constitution were ignored when it attempted to expel her from the set last year.

An injunction issued in September ordered the set to allow Okoye to continue to practice at the chambers pending arbitration. The injunction ordered both sides not to “assault, molest, or otherwise interfere” with each other.

Okoye would not comment on details of the case. No one at the chambers was available for comment.