An employment tribunal has ruled a criminal chamber discriminated against a lesbian lawyer who held “gender-critical” views and has been ordered to pay £22,000 in compensation.
However barrister Allison Bailey failed to prove she had lost earnings as a result of her dispute with Garden Court Chambers (GCC) and was unsuccessful in her claim against charity Stonewall.
In October 2019, Ms Bailey was involved in setting up the Lesbian and Gay Alliance group which argues there is a conflict between the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and transgender people.
Her tweets opposing trans rights campaigns resulted in complaints being sent to GCC, claiming they were transphobic.
A year before, in October 2018, Ms Bailey had also complained to colleagues about GCC’s involvement with Stonewall’s Diversity Champions scheme, claiming the charity advocated “trans extremism”.
The lawyer claimed she had been discriminated against for her views, and lost work and income due to her protest over the partnership between GCC and Stonewall.
The criminal defence barrister told a tribunal in central London she felt she was “offered inferior brief after inferior brief” and she felt she was being blocked from doing more substantial cases in 2019. She also accused GCC of trying to “crush her spirit” in an attempt to push her out of the firm.
Announcing its findings on Wednesday, the tribunal upheld the claims Ms Bailey had been discriminated against by GCC when they tweeted that the complaints against her would be investigated under a complaints procedure, and when they found in December 2019 that two of her tweets were likely to breach barristers’ core duties. The £22,000 award was by way of compensation for injury to feelings on this count.
However, the tribunal did not accept that she lost income or work due to her 2018 protest, or that she was the victim of “indirect” discrimination by the firm.
Ms Bailey also lost in her claim that Stonewall had instructed or induced discrimination by GCC.
Following the ruling, Ms Bailey said: “This is a vindication for all those who, like me, object to the erasure of biological sex, of women, and of same-sex attraction as material realities. It represents judicial recognition of the abuse waged against us.
“This case was never about money. I did not win everything, but I won the most important thing: I have brought Stonewall’s methods into the public eye, and I have shown them for what they now are.
“It never occurred to me as I was building my career that the organisation which would prove my biggest obstacle would be a charity set up ostensibly to protect people like me.
“This case was funded by donations from thousands of people who recognised the wrong that was being done to me and others like me. It is testament to the power and resolve of ordinary people: straight, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual.”
Clerks for GCC have said they did not attempt to reduce the quality of the work she was offered, the tribunal heard. They said they worked hard together to get her work and keep her in court and there was no attempt to make her face a reduced income in 2019.
Ms Bailey claimed that clerking “materially changed” in 2019 and recalled a period when she was offered two and three-day trials. She added: “You make it clear that a barrister has no future in chambers. There is going to be no active practice development for them.
“There is going to be no care given in developing their practice. The message I got which was frankly spirit-crushing.”
Ms Bailey, who claims that the quality of work offered to her dropped off from early 2019, had been offered a three-day case in March involving a charge of possession with intent to supply.
She said: “I was moving towards having a practice where I could conceive of applying to be a Queen’s Counsel. Having a three-day intent-to-supply case is the sort of case that one would give to a newly qualified barrister or a junior barrister.”
Ms Bailey said the case was not beneath her but it was a matter of “matching work to a barrister’s seniority and experience”.
She said: “It seemed to me to be an example of a clerk that I had no experience of and one of the first cases that he offers me is a very straightforward case of the sort that I would be doing when I first qualified 30 years ago.”
Ms Bailey said she had raised more than £500,000 on crowdfunding from around 9,000 individual donations to fund her legal case. The tribunal heard she was pursuing a case against her colleagues in chambers for six figures.
A spokesperson for GCC said: “We are reviewing today’s judgment, which dismissed Ms Bailey’s claim against Stonewall and most of her claims against Garden Court Chambers including all her claims for indirect discrimination.
“In particular we note that her primary claim (for loss of earnings on the grounds of victimisation) was dismissed, the tribunal finding that ‘We could not conclude that it was shown that the fall in income was in any way influenced (let alone significantly influenced)’ by Ms Bailey’s complaint to colleagues about Garden Court becoming a Stonewall Diversity Champion, or by her beliefs.
“The tribunal found that it ‘could not conclude that Garden Court Chambers as a whole had a practice of treating gender critical beliefs as bigoted’. This confirms our stance. We have maintained throughout that our members, quite reasonably, hold differing views in the complex debate around trans and sex-based rights. Our primary aim throughout has always been to uphold our values and maintain a workplace that is inclusive and welcoming to all.
“We are reviewing the judgment carefully with our legal team with a view to appeal.”
A Stonewall spokesperson said: “We are pleased that the employment tribunal has ruled in a decision published today that Stonewall has not been found to have instructed, caused or induced Garden Court Chambers to discriminate against Allison Bailey.
“Our Diversity Champions programme supports employers to make their workplaces inclusive and supportive of LGBTQ+ employees. It provides resources, guidance and support for organisations who are committed to creating a workplace where everyone can thrive. We are incredibly proud of the inclusive communities these organisations are creating across the country, by going above and beyond the legal minimum to provide leading support for LGBTQ+ people at work.
“The case heard by the employment tribunal did not accurately reflect our intentions and our influence on organisations. Leaders within organisations are responsible for the organisational culture and the behaviour of their employees and workers. Stonewall’s resources, support and guidance is just one set of inputs they use to help them as they consider how best to meet the needs of their own organisation.
“We are proud to work every day for the freedom, equity and potential of every LGBTQ+ person, whether that’s fighting for LGBTQ+ Afghans to be resettled in the UK, campaigning so that lesbian and bi women can access IVF without paying £25,000 out of their own pockets, or securing a ban on conversion practices that protect all LGBTQ+ people from lifelong harm.”
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