Letter: Obstacles barring the training of ethnic minorities

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The Independent Online
Sir: That the Barrow inquiry into the Bar Vocational Course found no evidence of direct or indirect racial discrimination will come as no surprise to the large numbers of law graduates from the ethnic minorities who have, over the years, passed the Bar exams ('Black Bar students penalised by race bias', 13 April).

Our complaint is not, and never has been, that we cannot pass the exams on the same footing as the natives. Those who (for their own reasons) have suggested otherwise have done a great discredit to the achievements of those of our community who, notwithstanding the unfamiliar aura of Bar School, have proved themselves to be, at the very least, the intellectual equals of their white counterparts.

Rather, our complaint has been, and remains, that the opportunities offered to us (by way of pupillage for barristers and training contracts for solicitors) to practise the skills which passing the professional examinations is intended to confirm that we possess, are in no way commensurate with the numbers who pass from our community. The reason is simple. The exam is an objective test of competence while selection for pupillage and training contracts is a subjective assessment of suitability.

The Barrow inquiry is mistaken in its suggestion that these difficulties we encounter result in a higher failure rate among our graduates. The contrary is the case. The difficulties compel us to work twice as hard, as we know that only the natives can afford to be complacent.

Yours faithfully,


London, N3

14 April

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