3-month ban for QC who sexually harassed women

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The Independent Online
A barrister who sits as a part-time judge and is accused of sexual harassment was yesterday suspended from practising for three months by the profession's disciplinary body. He also faces losing his authorisation to act as an assistant recorder.

Nigel Hamilton, 57, an eminent QC and member of the Bar's ruling General Council, "smacked the backside" of a defendant and "touched the backside" of a clerk employed by the defendant's solicitors, the tribunal found.

The Council of the Inns of Court, the body which found him guilty almost a month ago after a hearing behind closed doors, also said Mr Hamilton made indecent remarks to both women, which amounted to conduct "unbecoming a barrister".

The suspension of the former schoolmaster, who has two grown-up sons and lives in Compton Martin, Avon, took effect yesterday. The Lord Chancellor's department also said it would consider withdrawing Mr Hamilton's authorisation to sit as an assistant recorder, a decision which could be permanent.

Mr Hamilton, a former Conservative member of Avon county council, has been an assistant recorder - presiding over crown courts - since October 1992 and since April last year he has been responsible for courts on the Western Circuit, though he has not satin judgment on any cases in that time.

Scant details of the case were given in the ruling by the tribunal, which was chaired by Mr Justice Morrison, but the incidents occurred during the trial of a female defendant in an unnamed Crown Court between 16 September and 20 October 1992.

In the charge relating to the unnamed defendant, the tribunal found that Mr Hamilton had made sexual innuendos to her about her diary - an exhibit in the case - and about her sex life generally.

More than once he had smacked her backside, asked indecent questions about her sex life, and made indecent statements to her.

He had also referred to a boyfriend by an insulting name, in a way which suggested prejudice against his racial origins.

On the second charge, the tribunal found that Mr Hamilton had "on occasions touched the backside of a female clerk employed by the defendant's solicitors".

Several times he had made "lewd and offensive remarks" to her about her body and asked her "indecent questions" about her sex life.

The statement issued by the council yesterday also said that Mr Hamilton, who joined the General Council of the Bar in 1989, had faced a total of four charges by failing to give details of the remaining two counts.

The Bar Council, the barrister's representative body which acted as prosecutor in the tribunal, refused to comment directly on the case, but said that sexual harassment represented a serious breach of its code of conduct.

However, it responded to criticism of the apparent delay in the hearing of the case by saying that while regrettable, cases of this kind were not always as straightforward as they appear and inevitably they took time to prepare.

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