White man victimised by race row firm

Paul George on a battle against prejudice in a lawyers' office
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A WHITE solicitor who offered support to an Asian colleague he believed was suffering racial discrimination, has been paid pounds 1,500 by his former employers in an out-of-court settlement.

Andrew Bond, 34, was paid the money by Coventry law firm RJ Kelley & Co, after the company refused last May to continue representing him in a custody case for his two children with his former wife.

Mr Bond left the firm in July 1996 on amicable terms, after working there for two years. Once the firm became aware of his intention to give evidence on behalf of his Asian colleague at an industrial tribunal, it sent him a letter saying it was no longer prepared to act for him in the custody case. It said there had been a breakdown in confidence between the firm and Mr Bond.

After advice from the Commission for Racial Equality, he also started proceedings for an industrial tribunal, in his case, for victimisation.

His colleague, who worked as a legal adviser in the civil litigation department at RJ Kelley & Co, has since left the company. He also came to an out-of-court settlement with the firm.

Mr Bond, from Coventry, claims his colleague was consistently discriminated against throughout the 18-month period that the two men were at the company.

He said, "My Asian friend was treated very differently to myself and other members of the civil litigation department. Other people got a lot of support from the head of the department, whereas he wasn't.

"He was made to see difficult and drunken clients who were verbally and racially abusive to him. He was also required to take his annual holiday entitlement when attending a professional legal course whereas a white colleague was given paid leave."

Mr Bond alleges he heard the use of derogatory and racist remarks about several clients.

Eventually, says Mr Bond, the firm got rid of the colleague, who is not being named for legal reasons, when he raised concerns about the way he was being treated. After his colleague raised the matter, the head of the department made a thorough search of his office and issued him with a final written warning.

At this point, claims Mr Bond, he suggested to his friend that he should initiate proceedings for an industrial tribunal and offered to give evidence on his behalf.

Mr Bond said, "The way my colleague was treated was so unfair. He was extremely hard-working and on one occasion even produced a leaflet for the Asian community advertising the company's services.

"I felt compelled to offer my assistance. I was not prepared to stand by and let them get away with it. After all, I had joined a profession which is there to uphold the law and yet the company was clearly breaching the race relations legislation."

A spokesman for RJ Kelley declined to make any comment, when approached by the Independent on Sunday.

A spokesman for the Commission for Racial Equality said, "We would like to thank Mr Bond for the contribution he has made to making this country a better place for everyone. Also, we would look forward to working with RJ Kelley & Company to help them improve their equal opportunity practices."

Meanwhile, the Law Society confirmed that solicitors have to adhere to strict anti-discrimination rules.

A spokeswoman said, "Solicitors and their staff must deal with all persons with the same attention, courtesy and consideration regardless of race, colour, ethnic or national origins, sex, creed, disability or sexual orientation."