Rules that prevent chambers publishing statistics on their members’ sexual orientation and religious beliefs are to be reviewed, the bar regulator confirmed today. The Bar Standards Board said it would seek views on ‘whether to remove certain restrictions.’
Last year, the Gazette revealed that the BSB was reviewing the rule after criticism from some barristers as well as representative body the Bar Council. The council asked the BSB for a review more than a year ago.
Under current BSB rules, chambers are not permitted to disclose information about barristers’ declarations of sexual orientation 'unless all members of chambers have expressly agreed to the data being disclosed’. A further rule prevents publication if fewer than 10 barristers have identified as LGBT - an effective ban on publication even where full consent exists, given the size of most sets.
A consultation published today asks whether the rule is still appropriate and whether statistics related to sexual orientation should be treated in the same way as other diversity characteristics. In those instances, the only requirement is not to publish where there is a risk of any individuals affected being identified from the data.
Under no circumstances would any member of a chambers or an entity be obliged to disclose their diversity monitoring data to a chambers or entity, the BSB said.
Ewen MacLeod, director of strategy and policy at the BSB, said: ‘The Bar Council has asked us to review these publishing restrictions and we are keen to make sure that our rules on disclosure and transparency are both fit for purpose and encourage diversity at the bar.’
Sam Mercer, the Bar Council's head of policy, equality & diversity and CSR, said chambers had expressed frustration that they, and their LGBTQI members who were willing to have their numbers published, were prevented by the requirement for every single member of chambers to give written consent, irrespective of their own backgrounds. She added: ‘As a result many chambers were unable to demonstrate the diversity of their members and applicants perhaps got a false impression of a mono-culture in chambers. We will be submitting a considered and detailed response to the BSB’s consultation in due course to assist them.’
The consultation closes on 5 July.