England: Bullying and sexual harassment of women exaggerated, says Lord Chief Justice

England: Bullying and sexual harassment of women exaggerated, says Lord Chief Justice

Bullying and sexual harassment of women in the legal profession is greatly exaggerated, the Lord Chief Justice has said.

Lord Burnett of Maldon told the Lords Constitution Committee that a small minority of judges behaved badly towards female barristers and that there was no evidence of a wider problem, The Times reports.

“A few anonymous examples were given of judges apparently behaving badly in court,” Lord Burnett said, in reference to reports from the Criminal Bar Association.

“We hunted high and low to try to identify the examples that were referred to — and it turned out to be a handful.

“I fear that there was a phenomenon in play that is all too familiar to politicians — a tiny few examples get repeated time and again and an impression is created which is false.”

He added: “I would like to say absolutely clearly that of the hundreds of judges who sit in the Crown Court and Family Court, if there is a problem of this nature, it is a problem that affects only a very small number.”

Baroness Corston, a Labour peer and former barrister who called to the bar in her forties, disputed his account.

She said male barristers often behaved in an overtly “sexualised” manner in robing rooms.

She added that “quite a few older male barristers behaved in a sexualised way”.

“It was obviously meant to be intimidatory,” she said.

“I knew that; it didn’t bother me. If I had been a 26-year-old pupil, I would have found it distressing.”

Chris Henley QC, the chairman of the Criminal Bar Association, said: “We absolutely accept that most judges behave impeccably, but a very small number on occasions do not. This is not acceptable.”

Share icon
Share this article: