A family barrister has been cleared by the Bar Standards Board over tweets she sent about the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s new baby.
Joanna Toch was widely criticised and briefly suspended from the Family Law Cafe, the company she founded in 2017, after she tweeted about the name of the Sussexes’ second child, Lilibet Diana, last June.
Columnist Julie Burchill said the name was a ‘missed opportunity’, adding: ‘They could have called it Georgina Floydina!’ Toch, in an apparent reference to the Duchess of Sussex’s mother Doria Ragland, replied: ‘No Doria? Don’t black names matter?’
After Burchill replied that she was ‘hoping for Doria Oprah’, Toch responded: ‘Doprah?’ Toch, who was called to the bar in 1988, deleted the tweets shortly after they were published, apologised and shut down her Twitter account.
The Family Law Cafe said the comments were ‘offensive [and] unacceptable’ and briefly suspended Toch, who returned to work the following month. Toch’s comments were also criticised by the Family Law Bar Association, which said it had referred the tweets to the BSB and the Bar Council.
The BSB received dozens of complaints about the two tweets, which the regulator’s decision-making panel said some people found offensive though it added that this alone was not a basis for finding a breach of the BSB handbook.
The panel ultimately found the posts did not diminish public confidence in the profession or undermine Toch’s integrity or independence and dismissed the complaints against her.
Toch said in a statement: ‘My tweets were misinterpreted, perhaps deliberately by some, and I was publicly vilified with threats made about me and my family. The furore was whipped up by those who should have known better in my view.’
She added: ‘I am now going to get on with representing people who need to have their voices properly heard and make family law representation accessible to as many people as I can.’
The news comes after barrister Jon Holbrook won an appeal against a £500 fine for a tweet, with the Bar Tribunal and Adjudication Service ruling that an ‘expression of a political belief’ requires ‘more than the mere causing of offence’ to diminish public trust in a barrister or the profession.