Barrister cleared of misconduct for speaking to press

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The barrister accused of breaking his professions rules when he spoke to The Independent about a case that raised claims of institutional racism in the Crown Prosecution Service was cleared of any wrongdoing yesterday.

A tribunal reached a unanimous decision last night after the Commissioner for the Metropolitan Police, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and a Government minister stepped in to support civil rights barrister, Peter Herbert.

Four senior judges also gave testimonial evidence in favour of Mr Herbert.

The tribunal chairman, His Honour Judge Bing said: "The unanimous conclusion of the tribunal is that it is not satisfied that the words spoken by the defendant and reported by The Independent were personal comments. Accordingly, this charge is dismissed."

Afterwards, a jubilant Mr Herbert described the case as "an abuse of process". He said: "I regard this as a completely humiliating process to have had to undergo given my seniority in the profession ... It's a clear abuse of process for it to have even reached this stage. I believe that it would not have been tried in this way if I was a senior white barrister of similar standing."

Earlier, his barrister Sibhat Kadri QC told the tribunal the rule prohibiting barristers making personal comments on cases in which they were instructed was a breach of the human right to freedom of expression.

Mr Herbert risked losing his career if the tribunal had decided, by speaking to The Independent during a live case, that he had breached the Bar's code of conduct.

The case in question was a race discrimination claim brought by a senior Crown prosecutor alleging institutional racism within the Crown Prosecution Service.

Her case was successful and was later used to support a finding of institutional racism in the CPS after an independent inquiry into the recruitment, promotion and treatment of black and Asian staff.

Mr Herbert maintained throughout the three days of disciplinary hearing that he had only repeated his client's evidence in the case.

The tribunal accepted this assessment after hearing all the evidence and supporting testimonials.

In a character reference provided by the DPP, David Calvert-Smith QC paid tribute to Mr Herbert's "invaluable role" in the Society of Black Lawyers. He also praised him for his part in "the compilation by the Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate of a thematic review of the prosecution of the CPS of offences with a racial dimension."

The tribunal will give written reasons to the Bar council and Mr Herbert at a later date.