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A lesbian lawyer with “gender-critical” views has accused her employer of withholding work from her and trying to crush her spirit.
Garden Court Chambers (GCC) barrister Allison Bailey has launched discrimination action against the firm and charity Stonewall, which GCC had been working with.
In 2019, Ms Bailey founded the LGB Alliance group which argues there is a conflict between the rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual people, and transgender people – and opposes many Stonewall policies.
She claims she lost work and income due to GCC’s involvement with Stonewall’s Diversity Champions scheme, which she has said was “exclusive” and “discriminatory” of her beliefs.
It seemed to me to be an example of a clerk that I had no experience of and one of the first cases that he offers me is a very straightforward case of the sort that I would be doing when I first qualified 30 years ago
The criminal defence barrister told an employment tribunal in central London she felt she was “offered inferior brief after inferior brief” and she felt she was being blocked her from doing more substantial cases in 2019.
Clerks for GCC have said they did not withhold instructions to Ms Bailey or try to reduce the quality of the work she was offered, the tribunal has heard. They say they worked hard together to get her work and keep her in court and there was no attempt to make her face a reduced income in 2019.
Ms Bailey, who claimed that clerking “materially changed” in 2019, recalled a period where she was offered two and three-day trials.
Ms Bailey told the hearing that the way a firm could try to move someone out of chambers is that “you break their spirit”.
She added: “You make it clear that a barrister has no future in chambers. There is going to be no active practice development for them.
“There is going to be no care given in developing their practice. The message I got which was frankly spirit-crushing.”
Ms Bailey, who claims that the quality of work offered to her dropped off from early 2019, had been offered a three-day case in March involving a charge of possession with intent to supply.
She said: “I was moving towards having a practice where I could conceive of applying to be a Queen’s Counsel. Having a three-day intent-to-supply case is the sort of case that one would give to a newly qualified barrister or a junior barrister.
“I did not want my diary to be blocked out with a three-day case that I would be committed to and professionally bound to take and that would prevent me from taking a month-long case in March.”
Ms Bailey said the case was not beneath her but it was a matter of “matching work to a barrister’s seniority and experience”.
She said: “It seemed to me to be an example of a clerk that I had no experience of and one of the first cases that he offers me is a very straightforward case of the sort that I would be doing when I first qualified 30 years ago.”
The tribunal heard she would have received £1,500 from the case, of which 21 per cent would have been paid to her chambers in rent.
She said it was not a matter of turning down this income but wanting to keep her diary open for a case that would “pay substantially more, be substantially more professionally demanding and rewarding and would advance my career”.
She was given a high-profile 38-day murder trial in October 2019 but she said the firm needed someone to cover a complex murder case at the last minute and “that murder brief helped chambers out as much as it helped me out”.
Ms Bailey said she had raised more than £500,000 on crowdfunding from around 9,000 individual donations to fund her legal case. The tribunal heard she is pursuing a case against her colleagues in chambers for six-figures.
Ms Bailey said: “The reason for the suit is not motivated in any way shape or form by money – my losses have to be quantified.”
The hearing was adjourned to Tuesday at 10am.