Barrister in tears over abusive emails
Wednesday 19 May 2010
A barrister who lost a £33 million race discrimination claim broke down in tears today as a court was told her abusive emails to a former boyfriend should never have led to criminal charges.
Dr Aisha Bijlani, 43, was comforted by her father as her defence barrister Jeannie Mackie argued the emails should be seen in the context of a stormy relationship with a former boyfriend and, while offensive, did not amount to harassment.
Bijlani bombarded her ex-boyfriend with abusive emails and was hell-bent on destroying his life after he left her for a German model, Blackfriars Crown Court in London was told.
But Judge Peter Clarke QC dismissed the application there was no case to answer without even hearing arguments from prosecutors.
Bijlani described marketing executive Atul Sehgal as a "pathetic lap dog", "arsehole", "loser" and an "impotent gay man" who was a "failure in every way" in a series of emails.
She also sent five abusive emails in four days to model Nicola Koenig, 28, telling her she was a "cheap hooker", a "working class trollop" and a "flat-chested asexual freak" with sweaty feet who should lick toilet bowls for a living.
But, referring to Mr Sehgal, Ms Mackie said: "Look at the arrangements between them, look at the relationship between them, look at the conduct of them both.
"It's not a matter for the criminal courts."
Ms Mackie said there may have been a "certain amount of grandstanding" on the part of Mr Sehgal who appeared to describe "with relish" his reaction to the abusive emails.
"I do not seek to state these emails were not offensive," she said.
"But they do not constitute within the law a course of conduct that amounts to criminal conduct."
Bijlani, of Ponsonby Terrace, Belgravia, London, is appealing against a 2007 conviction for two counts of sending malicious and insulting emails and making abusive phone calls between June and August 2007.
She was given a conditional discharge after being convicted by City of Westminster magistrates and told the tribunal last October the incidents happened "in a period of acute distress".
Bijlani said she plunged into depression as a result of her treatment at the legal chamber Four New Square.
But Mr Sehgal, 41, who had a four-month relationship with Bijlani in 2004, told the court earlier this week: "In fact, it was evil behaviour from her."
He said Bijlani asked what his dead mother would think of him for abandoning her and going out with someone who "takes her clothes off for a living".
Bijlani was "consumed with jealousy" over his relationship with Ms Koenig, who she erroneously thought was a German prostitute, Mr Sehgal said.
Speaking rapidly, he told the court Bijlani was sending the emails "just to provoke me, just to humiliate me, just to upset me, just to make me feel really small".
He described "falling in love" with the advertising model, who has returned to Germany since the trouble with Bijlani, but Ms Koenig told the court she "never had a sexual relationship" with Mr Sehgal.
Mr Sehgal denied playing the two women off against each other, but conceded he may have sent Bijlani an internet link to Ms Koenig's modelling website.
Bijlani's race discrimination claims against three consecutive heads of chambers at her firm - John Powell QC, Justin Fenwick QC and Roger Stewart QC, plus senior clerk Lizzy Wiseman - were dismissed by the tribunal judge earlier this year.
The barrister, who regularly broke down in tears during the Central London Employment Tribunal hearing, claimed the firm's clerks subjected her to a racist regime, failed to get her work and did not collect her fees, costing her millions in lost income.
Ms Wiseman also used her romantic relationships with Mr Fenwick and Mr Stewart to avoid being held accountable at work, Bijlani claimed.
Bijlani - who qualified as a doctor and had a short career in medicine at Guy's Hospital in London before switching to a career in law - claimed she was never given the opportunity to reach her full potential at the chambers she joined in 1994 because of racist attitudes.
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