A barrister who was expelled from his chambers after tweeting about a ‘stroppy teenager of colour’ says he is now under investigation by the Bar Standards Board.
A tweet from Jon Holbrook’s personal Twitter account on 17 January attracted widespread criticism in the profession. In the post, Holbrook responded to a video from the Equality and Human Rights Commission telling the story of a black girl sent home because her hairstyle breached its uniform policy. Holbrook said the Equality Act ‘undermines school discipline by empowering the stroppy teenager of colour’.
Holbrook was subsequently voted out of public law set Cornerstone Barristers, which said it 'unequivocally condemns discrimination in all its forms'. Holbrook says that he resigned four days before the vote.
According to a statement by Holbrook, the BSB is now formally investigating him for a breach of the regulatory handbook in relation to 18 of his tweets. The allegations include that he posted a tweet designed to ‘demean or insult a teenager and which may be considered distasteful or offensive by others’, he said.
Holbrook wrote that he has also been accused of posting 17 tweets between 2019 and 2020 which were designed to demean or insult others including Muslims, homosexuals and women, and which tweets may be considered distasteful or offensive. The barrister says there is no proper basis for any charge.
The BSB said it could not confirm or comment on the investigation.
A consultation paper published by the bar tribunal in April said that more sanctions guidance is needed in relation to barristers’ use of social media. The tribunal proposed that misconduct relating to social media and other digital communications should cover the full extent of penalties.
Guidance published by the BSB in 2019 warned barristers that they could face disciplinary action if they take part in ‘heated’ internet debates, post ‘distasteful’ comments online, or reveal their whereabouts via social media. Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and LinkedIn were explicitly included in the guidance.