Skip to main content

Harassment and Bullying

You may have seen recent publicity about an online tool (Spot) to support recording incidents of inappropriate behaviour across the Bar.

There is no place for bullying, harassment or discrimination at the Bar. There has been an increase in the number of people reporting inappropriate behaviours, but we know this is the tip of the iceberg and many incidents go unreported and unchallenged. As a profession, we need to do a lot more to tackle inappropriate behaviours which can blight careers and create misery for so many.

Spread the word

Share the link to report an incident on your circuit;

We also know that it is very hard to call out bullying, harassment or discrimination when it happens, not least because the behaviours themselves undermine confidence and are an abuse of power in a profession where reputation and loyalty matter. It can be difficult to challenge harassment and bullying when the person doing the harassing or bullying is more senior (or a member of the judiciary). It can feel impossible to tell the person that you rely on for work that their behaviour is inappropriate or makes you uncomfortable. We know those who face this type of behaviour can feel very alone and may think they are the only one being affected by it and that they may be overreacting.

That’s where Talk to Spot comes in

Spot is an online tool which allows someone to record and, if they want, to report inappropriate behaviour, bullying, harassment and discrimination.

Spot is a completely secure tool designed to help people working in the Bar to record and report inappropriate behaviour. It will let someone make a record of exactly what happened, who did it, who saw it, where it happened and when. It’s simple to use and when they’ve inputted the information, it will generate a date stamped contemporaneous record of the incident.

No one else will see it. It belongs to the person who created the record.

What happens next is up to them

Once the record has been created, it can simply stay with the individual so that they have all the information in one place – they don’t have to do anything else with it. If they want, they can use the record to support a complaint about the incident. A complaint can go to the relevant chambers, employer and/or the regulator. In the case of criminal behaviour, the record can be used to help report an incident to the police.

If permission is given, the record can be sent by Spot to the equality and diversity team at the Bar Council.

What Bar Council will do with a report

The Bar Council cannot investigate a report, we can however:

  • contact the individual making a report—if they wish to be contacted—to discuss their experience and provide advice on options for action, support, and reporting;
  • use aggregated anonymised reports of incidents; for example, the Bar Council might, when speaking to Judicial Office, use trends or themes raised with Spot to seek better training for judges on bullying or in developing training/good practice for clerks and barristers etc.; and/or
  • advise a barrister if others have made similar complaints (against an individual)—this may influence what action an individual then chooses to take.

This can be done completely anonymously and would enable us to provide additional support and collect information about what’s happening where. It is completely up to the individual what they do with the information and how it is used.

Building a picture of harassment at the Bar

We hope that Spot will enable the Bar Council to build a picture of what is happening where and if there are patterns which can be stopped.

The isolation experienced by people who’ve been bullied, harassed and discriminated against is one of the barriers to really challenging perpetrators and toxic cultures. If the Bar Council receives multiple anonymous reports about the same individual, Spot will make it possible for us to go back to the people who made the records and let them know there are others with the same experience. This could give them more confidence in pursuing a complaint or at the very least let them know they are not alone.

Calling out inappropriate behaviour when we see it

Spot will also take third party reports, so if someone has witnessed an incident or inappropriate behaviour, they can make a record of it before they forget what might be important details. This record can then be reported to the relevant authorities; or sent to the team at the Bar Council. Again, these reports can be made anonymously and don’t have to go any further.

A tech solution to an age-old problem

Bullying, harassment and discrimination are nothing new and are not unique to the Bar. But we know our profession can be better and we want to do everything we can to make it easier for someone who has experienced inappropriate behaviour to report it and stop it. This way we will tackle toxic cultures which have allowed these behaviours to go unchallenged and we will send a clear signal that the Bar is of all, for all.

Alongside the Talk to Spot tool, the Bar Council will continue to provide confidential ethics and E&D helplines, training and support for members and chambers, and research and guidance on all aspects of equality and diversity. We’re keen to see how Spot can support this work, to see if it makes it easier for people to report and if it enables us to tackle this problem. We will keep Spot under review and make constant improvements as we learn from the experiences of users.

Spread the word

To report an incident, barristers will just have to follow this link. This will allow them to make a record and, if they wish to, to make a report.

If they have witnessed inappropriate behaviour, or someone has disclosed something to them, they can make a record themselves, or encourage the individual concerned to make a record.