An expelled barrister’s plea for the Bar Council to ‘stand up to the mob’ has been dismissed by its chair. In a letter to Jon Holbrook, who parted company with public law set Cornerstone Barristers in January after commenting on a case on social media, Derek Sweeting QC stated that he had the right to express his opinion but there was a ‘constraint on your entitlement to do so’.
Sweeting said Holbrook had been ‘entirely silent’ in relation to his obligation not to behave in a way which is likely to diminish the trust and confidence which the public places in him or the profession.
The letter, which came to light this week, continued: ‘The suggestion that you are in a position to set the Bar Council a test which it can only pass by publicly supporting your views is sententious nonsense.’
In January Holbrook tweeted about the case of a black schoolgirl sent home because her hairstyle breached uniform policy. The barrister of 30 years used the term ‘stroppy teenager of colour’ in his post.
Following his departure from his chambers – which Holbrook said had been brought about by his resignation prior to a members’ vote to expel him – he wrote an open letter to the Bar Council, saying that if it ‘ducked’ the challenge of supporting him it would ‘confirm the bar as a left-wing club’. Holbrook invited the representative body to establish that it welcomes people of all political persuasions ‘including those who challenge identity politics and left-wing views’.
Sweeting stressed that it was for the Bar Standards Board to decide whether Holbrook had contravened the barristers’ code, but said the bar was a ‘modern profession whose members hold and express a wide range of views with tolerance and respect’.
The chair added: ‘Behind all of this is a young woman, still a teenager, who brought a claim in accordance with the law. She is a student, no doubt experiencing the same pressures as the rest of her generation. You could have expressed your point in other ways. I wonder if the real test here is of personal judgment [sic] and empathy.’