In August my professional regulator, the Bar Standards Board, sanctioned me for a tweet. An appeal panel has now overturned the BSB’s decision and confirmed the importance of political speech under human rights law. The panel concluded that a tweet that may cause offence, or which could promote hostility towards others as a group, provides no basis for interfering with the right of a barrister, or any other member of a regulated profession, to speak politically.
For expressing my political opinions, in circumstances entirely unrelated to my professional work, I was expelled from my chambers; and though now exonerated, I have been fined £500 by the bar’s regulator on a newly minted charge. I reflect on the latest decision of the Bar Standards Board, which has at least exonerated me for the tweet that brought about my expulsion from Chambers.
Jon Holbrook is being formally investigated by his professional regulator, the Bar Standards Board, on a charge of bringing the profession into disrepute. His alleged crime? Eighteen tweets in which he has expressed views ‘not infrequently seen in the Mail or the Telegraph’. Law professor Andrew Tettenborn criticises the Board’s actions which will have a chilling effect on free speech and which show how ‘tolerance has now become vice and intolerance a sign of virtue’.
Barrister Jon Holbrook criticised the equality law that empowers schoolchildren to use race and culture to undermine school uniform policies. A few days earlier he tweeted: ‘The Equality Act undermines school discipline by empowering the stroppy teenager of colour.’ He was subsequently expelled by his Chambers. Here he writes an open letter to the chairman of the Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales.