A job applicant who was suing a barristers chambers after failing to secure pupillage – on the basis that the chambers had already acted against him in another claim he was pursuing - has dropped the claim.
The claimant, listed as Mr D Warburton, brought employment tribunal proceedings against 5 Essex Court and barrister Jeremy Johnson QC following the rejection of his application for pupillage.
Warburton alleged that he suffered discrimination because the decision was partly based on another employment claim in which Johnson represented the defendant. The respondents deny his claims and following an order that Warburton pay a deposit to keep proceedings alive, it is understood they were dropped.
Employment Judge S Moore, sitting at the Norwich tribunal, had said Warburton’s chances of proving his case were ‘highly doubtful’, but she initially rejected the respondents’ application to strike out.
The tribunal heard that Warburton had pursed a disability discrimination claim against Hertfordshire Police, after his job application for the force was turned down because of the perceived tone of his communications. It was said that the tone of his communications was caused by his anxiety and depression. Johnson had represented Hertfordshire Police at a preliminary hearing in that case.
Warburton then applied unsuccessfully for pupillage with 5 Essex Court and he alleged that Johnson, chair of the chambers’ pupillage committee, was responsible. He claimed victimisation and disability related discrimination, saying that Johnson must have spoken to committee member Georgina Wolfe, who made his pupillage decision, and/or put pressure on her to turn it down.
Lawyers for the respondents described the claims as ‘wholly speculative’ and with no reasonable prospect of success. It was stated that in 2019 the chambers had 250 applications for pupillage, of which two offers were made.
All pupillage applications were anonymised, and Johnson had requested that Warburton’s application should not be allocated to him, after consulting with the Bar Council ethics enquiries service.
It was accepted that Johnson met Wolfe at a professional event in March 2019 and told her that one of the applications she had marked came from an applicant involved in litigation in which he was acting. But it was submitted that the decision to reject Warburton’s application was made entirely by Wolfe without any involvement from Johnson.
The judge said Johnson’s email exchange with the ethics service showed that he had formed an unfavourable view of the claimant and wished to know whether he was able to convey that to the person handling the application. The judge said there was ‘little reasonable chance’ of either of his claims succeeding, which would depend on him establishing that Johnson and Wolfe’s evidence was untruthful. But she said that witness statements ‘cannot simply be assumed to be impregnable’ and that Warburton was entitled to cross-examine those involved. She ordered a £150 deposit be paid by the claimant as a condition of continuing to advance both claims.