Nearly one in three barristers has been bullied, harassed or discriminated against in the past two years, with judges and other lawyers cited as the most common culprits, a study by the Bar Council has found.

Of the 3,479 barristers who replied to the Bar Council ‘working lives’ survey, 30% reported personal experience of bullying, harassment and/or discrimination within the previous two years. Reports of inappropriate behaviour have substantially increased since the 2017 survey, in which 21% of respondents reported similar incidents.

According to the Bar Council, female barristers were three times as likely as male barristers to have experienced bullying, harassment, and discrimination in person, while barristers from non-white backgrounds were around twice as likely as white barristers to have had such experiences.

It also identified a ‘compounding effect’ of sex and ethnicity, with female barristers from non-white backgrounds being four times as likely to experience bullying, harassment, and discrimination as white male barristers (58% and 15% respectively). Black and mixed race female barristers have been particularly affected. 

Derek Sweeting QC, chair of the Bar Council, said: ‘Work has already begun in the last year or so to tackle the issue of bullying, harassment and discrimination at the bar, and we are making the bar a more accessible profession in terms of its working practices.’

The Bar Council recently met with the judiciary to discuss the types of incidents involving judges that get reported and the impact they have on barristers. It has also published a judicial bullying guide and has developed an anonymous reporting app called Talk to Spot.