UK: MP and minister Harriet Harman KC to chair the independent review of bullying and harassment at the bar

MP and minister Harriet Harman KC is to chair the independent review of bullying and harassment at the bar, it was announced today. The independent review was commissioned by the Bar Council following its report finding that 44% of respondents had experienced or witnessed bullying, harassment or discrimination in the previous two years – an increase on the previous survey results.

The report found these inappropriate behaviours were a widespread problem which , in part are a consequence of the culture at the bar and the external pressures on the justice system.

According to the Bar Council the review will seek to identify the reasons for the unacceptable levels of bullying and harassment, including sexual harassment. ’It will consider the impact of these behaviours, the efficacy of current measures to counter this problem, reporting mechanisms, support services, and, most importantly, it will identify solutions.’

Harman, a former practising solicitor, retired from the House of Commons last month after 42 years as a Labour MP.  She served as solicitor general and justice minister under Tony Blair.

Harman will chair the independent review

The review is being launched with a call for submissions inviting all parties (including individual barristers, pupils and students and organisations) to provide evidence of the reasons for, and impact of, bullying and harassment; the reporting mechanisms and sanctions regime; and potential reforms to tackle inappropriate behaviours. It will not address individual reports or incidents. It is due to report in June next year.

Announcing Harman’s appointment, bar chair Sam Townend KC said:  ’As a former solicitor general and widely respected chair of cross-party inquiries into standards, Harriet Harman KC is the right person to take forward this review. Harriet understands the legal professions and justice system and her wider work in parliament will bring fresh thinking to a very difficult problem.’

Harman said she was honoured to be leading the review.  ’It is to their credit that the Bar Council has acknowledged the problem of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment and has determined to take action to tackle it.’