The Bar Council has defended its decision to hire a diversity consultant without interviewing her and without holding a tender process, saying it was under no obligation to consider other candidates.

The representative body used a £75,000 grant assigned to boost diversity among QCs to appoint an equality consultant last summer. The consultant, who had previously worked with the Bar Council’s head of diversity and inclusion Sam Mercer, was taken on without a tender process or an interview. A barrister who wished to remain anonymous said the hire was a ‘disgraceful attack on diversity rather than its promotion’.

A coronavirus consultant was also hired in the same manner. The Gazette understands that consultants in other parts of the organisation were recruited by competitive tender. 

A Bar Council spokesperson said: ‘When seeking the services and expertise of consultants at the Bar Council the main aim is to secure the services of the right person for the job that needs to be done, sometimes within a limited time frame. There’s no obligation to hold a tender process or advertise the requirement for consultancy support. In these instances, we have very capable individuals carrying out vital work, one in relation to supporting diversity, the other to help the Bar Council provide essential support to chambers during the Covid-19 crisis.’

A sum of £75,000 is provided annually to the Bar Council and the Law Society by Queen’s Counsel Appointments to support initiatives aimed at increasing the diversity of QC applicants.