‘What’s your opinion on the burka?’: barristers share race stories

first_imgChambers are paying ‘lip service’ to the idea of promoting and improving diversity at the bar and should instead be required to meet certain standards, an event on race equality has heard.Instead, they should develop a ‘kitemark’ that would demonstrate that they are meeting best practice, fairness and transparency, it was suggested. The event, organised by the Bar Standards Board, was held last month but the regulator has just published an account. Speakers included minority ethnic barristers Sarah Ibrahim of 3 Hare Court and Garden Court Chambers’ Leslie Thomas QC.The idea of a kitemark was suggested by Thomas who said he thought it would take over 100 years for the percentage of BAME silks to mirror the general population and 50 years for women to comprise half of all QCs.Ibrahim, sharing her own experiences, said that if you have any discussion about race and how uncomfortable it is you end up being ‘subject to a barrage of basically being accused of being soft or having imagined it and that there’s no racism’.She said examples included being asked for her opinion on the burka at the end of an unrelated county court application. ‘You may think that you are part of the bar, you’re part of a community, but you get various experiences along the way when you are reminded that people are thinking of you differently and that can be incredibly disconcerting,’ she told the event.She encouraged the BSB to set-up action groups and task forces to look at race equality.Thomas said on a number of occasions he had turned up at court in a suit and was seen as ‘everything but the lawyer’.’I challenge any black person here to say, practising as a lawyer; you haven’t experienced discrimination in some form or other. We all do,’ he added.In its summary the BSB said it is determined to convert some of the ideas and suggestions into a concrete action plan.last_img

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