Barrister Allison Bailey has released the full text of a complaint made by Stonewall against her and her response to it, writes legal commentator Dennis Kavanagh.
In a significant development in lesbian barrister Allison Bailey’s legal fight against Stonewall and Garden Court Chambers, she today made public a complaint made by Stonewall against her and her response to it. She placed the documents on her website and Twitter with only minor voluntary redactions citing the public nature of the crowdfunder behind her case as the main reason for doing so.
While the documents are now official court documents and would normally be confidential to proceedings, the relevant rules allow for reporting of them as they were referred to in open court at an interim hearing on the 12th February covered by Lesbian and Gay News here.
The background to the case is that Bailey claims Stonewall and Garden Court victimised her for holding and expressing “gender critical” views. She alleges members of Garden Court Chambers colluded with Stonewall resulting in a complaint being made by the charity to Garden Court. At the February interim hearing Employment Judge Stout found that “There is material…which shows there was interaction between one or more members of Chambers and persons who were at least associated with Stonewall (being on their Stonewall Trans Advisory Group) that could be said to amount to “collusion”.
In a ruling considering the effect of the complaint, the Judge found, “The Stonewall complaint of 31 October 2019 in itself plainly seeks to put pressure on Chambers to take action against the Claimant, indeed to the extent of urging Chambers to remove the Claimant from Chambers, and accompanies that with a threat about the ongoing relationship between Chambers and Stonewall itself if Chambers does not take action”.
With the full text of the complaint now available the reasons for the Judge’s conclusions are becoming clearer, the complaint says in terms that Stonewall has “concerns” regarding Bailey’s “association with” Garden Court before summarising several tweets. It goes onto claim that Stonewall believed itself to be in a “difficult position” if the barrister’s chambers continued “associating with a barrister who is actively campaigning for a reduction in trans rights”, (a claim Bailey vigorously disputes). The complaint ends with the words “I trust that you will do what is right and stand in solidarity with trans people”, a sentence Bailey says can only be sensibly understood as a veiled reference to removing her.
Bailey’s “response document” is not a direct response to the Stonewall complaint, rather to an internal disciplinary based on the complaint. As such, it deals with allegations she breached “core duties”, (a series of strict rules regulating the professional conduct of barristers enforced by the Bar Standards Board). Her response deals in substance with each complaint raised by Stonewall and the document sets the scene for the current court battle making a number of points concerning human rights, the Equality Act and the wider context for the social media messages complained of.
The release of the documents shed light on one of the central issues in the forthcoming case, the close relationship between Stonewall and members of the “Diversity Champions” scheme. With recent reports that more organisations are declining to renew membership of the scheme, the release of the papers will no doubt have enormous implications for businesses balancing the risks and rewards of a scheme where litigation and disclosure arise.
Dennis Kavanagh is a legal commentator and barrister (non-practising).