The Bar Standards Board is considering dropping a rule that allows one barrister to prevent an entire set from revealing the sexual orientation and religious beliefs of its members.
Agenda papers for the BSB’s latest board meeting on 28 September claim there is an ‘appetite to review’ the current rules in favour of promoting awareness of the diversity of sexual orientation within the bar.
As it stands, a chambers may not report the sexual orientation and religious beliefs of its members unless every member agrees to publication. The BSB said this had resulted in ‘very low disclosure of sexual orientation and religion and belief data’.
It noted: ‘The current drafting of the rule means that heterosexual members of chambers (who are not at significant risk of having their identity revealed) are able to veto the publication of all sexual orientation data. This has had the effect of significantly lowering overall publication.’
The rule applies to both sexual orientation and ‘religion and belief’, though the BSB said it was prepared for opinions between the two groups to differ and that rules may end up being amended for one group and not the other.
Reporting restrictions on lesbian, gay bisexual transgender (LGBT) data have been criticised by both the bar’s representative body the Bar Council and by representatives of LGBT barristers.
The BSB insisted it was important to address diversity data – particular in areas where there are low levels of reporting.
‘Without diversity data, it is impossible to establish the nature or extent of any inequality and therefore devise appropriate measures to reduce or remove it,’ the board paper said.
A consultation paper, which will need to be approved by the board, is to be drafted – though a timeframe for this was not given.