'Evil' barrister tried to ruin my life, ex tells appeal

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The Independent Online

An "evil" barrister who lost a £33 million race discrimination claim against a leading law firm was hell-bent on ruining her ex-boyfriend's life, a court heard today.

Indian-born Aisha Bijlani was branded "evil" by Atul Sehgal as he described how she set out to "humiliate and destroy" him.

Details of the harassment were given today at Blackfriars Crown Court in London as Bijlani launched her appeal against a conviction for two counts of sending malicious and insulting emails and making abusive phone calls between June and August 2007.

She told a tribunal last October that the incidents happened "in a period of acute distress" after she plunged into depression as a result of her treatment at the legal chamber Four New Square.

But today, Mr Sehgal, who had a four-month relationship with Bijlani in 2004, told the court: "In fact, it was evil behaviour from her."

Bijlani thought Mr Sehgal had left her for one of his colleagues, Nicola Koenig, who Bijlani incorrectly believed was a German prostitute, the court was told.

Mr Sehgal said: "She told me she wanted to destroy me and would say, 'Watch while your life crumbles'. She was ruthlessly just trying to destroy my life.

"It basically was there to humiliate and destroy me in the most personal way.

"She was hell-bent on ruining my life because I was ignoring her and hanging around too much with Nicola Koenig."

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".

The court was told that in one email, dated June 20, 2007, Bijlani told Mr Sehgal: "You and your friends are weak, childish, sensitive, low-achievers, serial liars and pathetic."

In another on July 14, she wrote: "No guy with a normal sex drive could be interested in a flat-chested, too long-faced, asexual freak with large sweaty feet, yuk."

She referred to Mr Sehgal as a "lap dog", "arsehole", "loser" and an "impotent gay man" who was a "failure in every way".

In another email, she 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".

Mr Sehgal replied to one of the email with the words:"F*** Off", the court was told.

Bijlani also emailed Ms Koenig five times between July 30 and August 2, 2007, giving one message the subject "Auf Wiedersehen".

Pamela Reiss, for the Crown, said Bijlani's opening line in an email to the complete stranger was: "Do most people call you a cheap hooker or a working-class trollop?"

Bijlani went on: "Since you have no qualifications and are now old and past it, perhaps you should get Atul's acquaintances (he has no friends) to pay you for licking the toilet bowls every time they have a shit.

"The most you should get is 1p for every 100 bowls you lick.

"I wouldn't pay you anything but then I wouldn't have a cheap trollop any where near me."

Bijlani, who was given a conditional discharge after being convicted, was not in court today for the start of the appeal, expected to last three days.

Bijlani, 43, of Ponsonby Terrace, Belgravia, London, was represented today by her counsel Jeannie Mackie and is expected to give evidence during the appeal.

Her 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 a tribunal judge earlier this year.

Bijlani, 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.

She also claimed Ms Wiseman used her romantic relationships with Mr Fenwick and Mr Stewart to avoid being held accountable at work.

Bijlani also claimed white colleagues who qualified at the same time as she did earned about £7 million more than her in more than a decade at the firm.

The terms "paki" and "wog" were used "liberally" in the clerks' room at the chambers and some employees expressed support for the policies of the National Front, she said.

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.

She earned considerably less than two white colleagues who joined the firm at the same time, the tribunal heard.

The appeal was adjourned to tomorrow.