Dr Charlotte Proudman, a family law lawyer who specialises in violence against women, reported more than 50 barristers, who were predominantly male, to the Bar Standards Board over a series of public messages. She believes the criticism is “an attempt to silence” her from speaking out about violence against women and girls.
But despite being acknowledged as “unpleasant and inflammatory”, the board said it would not take action because the messages do not meet the threshold for regulatory action.
Tweets sent by currently practising and retired lawyers, seen by The Independent, brand Dr Proudman a “c***t”, a “w*****”, a “narcissist”, and “dreadful” — as well as accuse her of “idiocy”. Other posts have questioned what Dr Proudman studied, accuse her of being a “Russian bot”, imply she is acutely mentally ill and accuse her of posting flirtatious photos which undermine her views.
Dr Proudman, 35, who is also a feminist campaigner, said the abuse has had a “profound effect” on her “emotional wellbeing”. She told The Independent: “It has made me fearful of being around other barristers in networking events, in court, or social situations.
“I don’t know if someone who has called me a narcissist or a c*** online is there. That is an intimidating environment. I often feel uncomfortable. I could be against them in court. People are allowed to disagree with me but keep it clean.”
A letter from the Bar Standards Board addressed to Dr Proudman, seen by The Independent, states they “acknowledge that a number of the tweets you forwarded to us were unpleasant and inflammatory”.
But the letter adds: “We have however reached the conclusion that they do not reach the threshold that would lead to regulatory action against those who made them, where those individuals are on our register.”
Dr Proudman said barristers had told her she should be reprimanded by the board - something which she finds “threatening” and makes her feel like her “workspace has become quite dangerous to be in”.
Criticism and abuse from her colleagues fosters a “herd mentality” which “sends out a message” to the average Twitter user “they can abuse me”, she added.
Discussing the regulator’s decision to take no action on her complaint, the lawyer said she felt “deeply let down and really disappointed”.
Dr Proudman added: “I felt that they were complicit in the abuse that I'm experiencing from barristers because they've done nothing to protect me in this. They have just given them a carte blanche licence to carry on. It just sends out a signal to me that they don't take misogyny, sexism, and bullying against women seriously at the bar.”
She added: “I do family law predominantly, and in the family courts, all of the victims are silenced. So when they leave the court doors, they can’t talk about anything that has happened in those hearings,” she said.
“I see that silence as a way of preventing them from speaking out about the abuse they’ve suffered and changing the system. And so I’m damned if I’m going to let them do that to me. As an advocate, I have every right to speak out, and I feel like I have a public duty to speak out about the inadequacies and the failings within the justice system.”
A spokesperson for the Bar Standards Board declined to comment.
Join our commenting forum
Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies