Closing arguments have been heard in the employment tribunal case brought by criminal barrister Allison Bailey against her former chambers and the campaign group Stonewall. Bailey alleges that Stonewall, which runs the Diversity Champions scheme, pressured managers at Garden Court Chambers to discipline her for her gender-critical beliefs.

As a result, Bailey says, she was offered inferior briefs more suited to a newly-qualified barrister. The Employment Appeal Tribunal ruled last year in Forstater v CGD Europe that gender-critical beliefs are protected under the Equality Act 2010.

Part of the evidence considered in the four-week tribunal was a tweet that Bailey made in 2019 to mark the launch of the LGB Alliance, an organisation she co-founded that opposes Stonewall’s stance on trans issues. The tweet, said Ben Cooper, QC for Bailey, generated a barrage of abuse including 'death threats' and 'memes with firearms'. GCC responded with a tweet saying that Bailey was under investigation. In doing so, said Cooper, it had been 'in breach of confidentiality'. It had also sought to 'downplay' the abuse Bailey had received.

Cooper cited an email sent on 31 October 2019, by Kirrin Medcalf, head of trans inclusion at Stonewall, to the GCC heads of chambers. In the email Medcalf expressed concern about Bailey’s 'multiple transphobic statements' on Twitter, saying that GCC’s 'continued association' with Bailey 'puts us in a difficult position with yourselves' and trusting that GCC 'will do what is right'.

Cooper said it was 'explicit that he is seeking to have the claimant expelled from chambers'. Medcalf had 'agreed in his evidence that that was certainly an outcome he was intending to suggest,' he added.

Barristers for the respondents argued that Stonewall’s influence on GCC was minimal. Ijeoma Omambala QC, for Stonewall, described the relationship between the two organisations as 'desultory'. In November 2020, GCC had decided not to renew its membership of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Programme, 'because it regarded it as not offering sufficient value for money in straitened post-pandemic times'.

Bailey’s case 'proceeded from ignorant mischaracterisation of Stonewall’s work', Omambala said, adding: 'The claimant has displayed a visceral and implacable hostility towards Stonewall and that hostility has skewed her judgement and led her to bring a case based on her own prejudices and bereft of legal merit.' The claimant’s beliefs, when properly understood, 'do not qualify for protection under section 10 of the Equality Act,' she said. She characterised the Medcalf email as an 'expression of concern' rather than 'an instruction that amounts to a basic contravention' [of the Equality Act].

Garden Court’s relationship with Stonewall was 'limited and insubstantial', Andrew Hochhauser, QC for GCC argued. He said that GCC came under attack as a result of Bailey’s tweets, and that they 'have a right to make clear that the claimant’s views are not her own, that the LGBA is her project, her views should not be attached to Garden Court and they have the right to defend it. Defending themselves is not the same as attacking her.'

Judgment was reserved.