UK’s rule of law, admin charges, diversity advice and trans issues: your letters to the editor

Don’t shoot the messenger

I completely concur with J Howard Shelley (Feedback, 11 February). In 1978 I was an articled clerk in my first practice and was made a partner in 1985. Unfortunately, a few years later I discovered the senior partner, who was my former principal, was ‘teeming and ladling’ the client account. I had a terrifying experience in confronting him with my concerns.

I was aware that as a partner I was equally responsible for compliance with the Solicitors Accounts Rules, but I decided I had to report the matter to what was then the Law Society.

Thankfully no action was taken against us, but the senior partner was rightly struck off. At least this enabled us to wind down the practice and move on at a time when I had a young family to support.

I believe the SDT was erroneous to treat Emily Scott in the same way and this sends the wrong signal to those who find themselves in a similarly unfortunate situation.

It is the duty of all us to root out the bad apples in the profession who bring it into disrepute. Those who expose them deserve our empathy and should have any sanction against them mitigated accordingly.

Bernard Tomlin
Solicitor, HCB Park Woodfine LLP, Bedford

Begum saga diminishes UK’s rule of law

The Spectator’s Melanie McDonagh had it right (Seen & Heard, 25 February) – and now Shamima Begum’s son Jarrah has sadly died. 

His death diminishes us all, just as his mother’s abandonment coarsens and does heavy-duty damage to the UK’s commitment to the rule of law; and to this lady’s inalienable human rights, whatever may be her perceived or actual wrongdoing. 

Supposed complexities over her return to face the music are seriously exaggerated. Our obligations in international law are unarguable and perseverance with such inherent unfairness, coupled with the fiction of danger to the nation on her return, will serve only to aggravate the risks of terrorist retaliation reverberating down the generations to come.

For home secretary Sajid Javid the jury is decidedly out. The verdict as it stands: his condemnation as nothing more nor less than a desiccated calculating machine. 

It is now over to him and the government as a whole to do much, much better.

Malcolm Fowler
Solicitor advocate (retired) and human rights activist, Kings Heath, Birmingham

Diversity advice is available

Conduct Unbecoming (25 February) was a timely feature. There are useful resources, such as the Law Society’s guidance on workplace harassment, developed by the Diversity and Inclusion Team and the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

The SRA also has a section on sexual harassment in the SRA Diversity Toolkit.

Professor Sara Chandler QC (Hon)
Chair, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee, the Law Society

Admin charges are priced too high

Administrative matters, such as probate applications, should be charged on the basis of what they cost to administer. 

To arbitrarily charge an amount up to £6,000 is clearly a fund-raising measure. HM Land Registry fees were in fact reduced, based on the fact that the Registry was making a profit over the actual cost of dealing with applications, and so on. 

Anthony D Miller
Partner, Miller Clayton, Stanmore, Middlesex

Trans issues are poorly understood 

I was dismayed to read the letter ‘Gender divide’ (11 February). The trans-exclusionary views and language used go to show how far we still need to go as a profession in our understanding of LGBT+ issues, and in particular our understanding of trans and non-binary people. For the benefit of the anonymous writer:

1. ‘Gender’ and ‘sex’ are not the same thing. Sex is what someone is assigned at birth based on their externally visible genitalia. It is worth pointing out that even this is not a binary, and that some people are born intersex, ie, with varying degrees of the characteristics of male or female.

2. Gender is a cultural construction, and the gender that someone identifies as does not necessarily match the sex they were assigned at birth. People can be extremely uncomfortable with, and suffer significant dysphoria in relation to, their assigned gender, and to suggest that they cannot identify as a gender other than that which matches their visible genitalia (or, as is not uncommon at the moment, to suggest that wanting to do so is in some way a ‘fad’ or ‘phase’) is highly dismissive of a fundamental part of someone’s identity, and is something which can cause people real distress. Studies typically show that between a quarter and a half of young trans people attempt suicide.

3. Young trans men and boys, as well as young non-binary people, can also have periods if their biology is primarily female. This does not mean that they are girls, if they do not identify as such. To describe menstruation-related issues as only relevant to girls is to effectively erase the gender identity that those young men, boys and non-binary people have chosen.

For such views to be expressed both during LGBT History Month, and so soon after a law firm was announced as Stonewall’s Top Employer 2019 is disappointing. It indicates that, despite the efforts of many law firms to be more inclusive and embracing of diversity, there are still lawyers who either do not understand trans issues or prioritise their own comfort and resistance to difference over allowing others to be their true selves. 

I am grateful to be part of a firm that is truly inclusive of LGBT+ and other diverse populations, and can only hope for the entire profession to be as inclusive in time.

Jessica Brickley
Solicitor, Freeths, Nottingham