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Outrage over ‘travesty of justice’ as barrister Peter Herbert is found guilty


Part 2


Acting on Carol Baptiste’s instructions, Peter Herbert spoke to journalists outside Camberwell Green magistrates court, accusing Lord Laming of “institutional racism” in prosecuting his client.

He said: “There is an element where institutional racism may have played a part in this process. Five racist suspects committed perjury and were never prosecuted to this day and it stands in stark contrast to the way this black woman has been hounded.”

Peter Herbert was interviewed on the Today programme at 7.30pm the next morning, when he claimed Lord Laming has used “a sledgehammer to crack a nut.”

Lord Laming wrote to the Bar Council asking whether Peter Herbert had broken any rules. In response Lisa Finch of the Bar Council’s Professional Conduct and Complaints Committee wrote back to Lord Laming saying the Bar Council had decided not to take action

Lisa Finch wrote: “In the Committee’s view, a barrister will not generally be in breach of [the rules] if he utters criticism of legal proceedings. The expression of criticism does not generally diminish public confidence in the administration of justice.”

That appeared to be the end of the matter, but mysteriously six months later Lord Laming decided to ‘formalise’ his inquiry into an official complaint against Peter Herbert. The Bar Council then initiated an ‘own motion’ seeking to discipline him for speaking in the ‘first person’ in the ‘Today’ interview.

Peter Herbert has demanded to see all records of contact between the Bar Council and Lord Laming before Lord Laming ‘formalised’ his complaint. The Bar Council denied they influenced Lord Laming’s decision.

Peter Herbert has contrasted his treatment with that of Allan Green, the white former Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who was cautioned by police after being caught curb-crawling, but not disciplined by the Bar Council

He said the Bar Council had consistently failed to deal with issues of race in the legal profession, and has protested at the number of all-white legal chambers and the huge gap between the numbers of Black and Asian people qualifying as barristers and those that actually secure chambers to practice law.

‘rent dispute’

He is representing barrister Joseph Anoom, who is facing a formal Bar Council investigation over a rent dispute with his landlord, something which apparently does not have anything to do with his legal role.

Cindy Butts

I'm shocked, dismayed and saddened. It really does smack of a witchhunt against someone who has been at the forefront of the stuggle for justice and fairnessunquote
Cindy Butts, Metropolitan Police Authority

Peter Herbert has also represented barrister Sukhjinder Kaur Johal, chair of the Association of Asian Lawyers, who alleges racial and sexual harassment, and law clerk Eric Adusei.

In addition, he has represented CPS lawyer Maria Bamieh, who won her claim of race and sex discrimination, and has supported former Law Society vice-president Dr Kamlesh Bahl, who won a case of race discrimination after being falsely accused of bullying.

Today Peter Herbert said: “I know that over the years I’ve upset a lot of people in the profession, and this is the sort of payback you get if the opportunity comes to teach you a lesson, victimise you, then that’s what they’ll do.”

Simon Woolley, head of Operation Black Vote, said: “It not only beggers belief but the message it sends to society is that you become a prominent black barrister, and you seek to defend black people, the establishment will get you. They will hunt you down and they will ensure that they will clip your wings.”

chaotic scenes

After the Bar Council’s disciplinary committee delivered their verdict, Peter Herbert told them he believed the hearing had been “biased every step of the way” and had “fallen singularly short” of the standards of burden of proof.

Lord Herman Ouseley, a former head of the Commission for Racial Equality, and Lord Justice Sedley, a Court of Appeal judge, had sent character witness statements to the Bar Council in favour of Peter Herbert.

In chaotic scenes around 30 of Peter Herbert’s supporters, who had turned up at the Bar Council’s High Holborn offices which seats around 40 members of the public, where told the disciplinary hearing had been moved to a small room in another venue.

When they arrived at the new address they were told it was not a public hearing before security staff eventually let in only eight supporters, leaving the remaining 20 people outside the building. Blink intends to complain to the Bar Council and the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, over these matters.

Bizarrely, when the disciplinary hearing was over following the guilty verdict, and people had left the building still unaware of what actual punishment was, a member of the Bar Council staff ran after Peter Herbert as he entered a nearby pub asking him to return to the building to ‘discuss’ what punishment would be applied. He refused.

In a statement Icah Peart QC, vice-chairman of the Bar Council’s Race and Religion Committee, said: “We stand 100% by our record on promoting diversity through the first and most comprehensive equality code to form part of the rule book of any profession.”

see also

Top barrister Peter Herbert ‘victimised for challenging racism in legal profession’

The Guardian: Top black lawyer faces hearing

BBC: Lawyer faces ban for interview

Independent: Black barrister takes Bar to tribunal over 'race discrimination'

The Guardian G2: A matter of opinion

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