Discriminatory instructions guidance from Bar Council
The Bar Council has issued guidance to all barristers about how to deal with instructions that are discriminatory.
Under the Equality Act 2010 it is unlawful for anyone (including solicitors, clients and clerks) to select counsel on the basis of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation, and yet the practice continues – often under the guise of acting in the “best Interests” of clients.
The guidance acknowledges that there are difficulties in that some instructions may appear to be indirectly discriminatory but are in reality given to achieve a legitimate aim – for example requiring a fluent Turkish speaker may also amount to indirect race discrimination, but could be justified if much of the paperwork was in Turkish.
The guidance makes it clear that solicitors should not be discriminating where there is no occupational requirement. Thus instructing a female barrister to prosecute a rape case or instructing an Asian barrister to represent Asian clients.
The full text of the guidance can be found on the Bar Council web site at www.barcouncil.org.uk/media/261006/bar_council_discriminatory_instructions_updated_e_d_guidance_november_2013.pdf