Harassment case judge steps down

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The Independent Online
A PART-TIME judge who was found to have sexually harassed a pupil barrister has voluntarily stood down from the bench pending the result of a possible appeal against the ruling.

Christopher Sutton-Mattocks, 46, a barrister who sits as a crown court recorder, has not yet stated whether he intends to lodge an appeal.

If he fails to do so within 21 days of last week's hearing, or if the result goes against him, his name will be struck off the list of barristers appointed to sit as part-time recorders.

According to the Lord Chancellor's Department yesterday, he has agreed not to sit on the bench until the matter is resolved. "The Lord Chancellor [Lord Irvine] does not condone any form of sexual harassment," a spokesman said.

Mr Sutton-Mattocks, who was appointed a recorder in 1996, was fined pounds 500 by a Bar Council disciplinary tribunal for persistently harassing Claire Kavanaugh, 25, a pupil at his chambers in central London.

Another female pupil is also thought to have complained about him.

Ms Kavanaugh is believed to be the first pupil to make a formal allegation of sexual harassment against a barrister since a new system to deal with such complaints was introduced by the Bar.

In 1995, a Bar Council working party concluded that some barristers indulge in "disgraceful" behaviour towards the pupils whose training they supervise. Another study found that a high proportion of women barristers face sexual discrimination and harassment at the start of their careers.

Whatever happens to Mr Sutton-Mattocks' career on the bench, he remains free to practise as a barrister.

The Bar Council, the professional body for England and Wales, has the power to disbar or suspend barristers who breach its disciplinary code. But a spokeswoman said yesterday that if the appeal was unsuccessful in this case, the pounds 500 fine would stand as the penalty.

Mr Sutton-Mattocks' part-time post requires him to sit for at least four weeks a year, although most recorders spend much more time than that on the bench.

Mr Sutton-Mattocks, who is married and practises mainly as a criminal barrister, was not available for comment at his chambers yesterday. His clerk said it was believed that he might be abroad.