By S Neeraj Krishna
A LONDON barrister has been reprimanded and fined £750 after he allegedly made “rude” comments suggesting that an Asian female judge got the role because of “positive discrimination”.
A disciplinary tribunal heard that Timothy Becker had made the comments referring to “Deputy District Judge Hussain” in an email sent to a claimant in a civil dispute, reports said on Thursday (1).
The only justice with that surname is Deputy District Judge Anitra Hussain, a former human rights barrister, according to the Ministry of Justice.
She became a deputy district judge in 2013, and was elevated as a district judge in September last year.
Judge Hussain, who entered the bar in 1994, was described as an experienced advocate “who spends half of her time teaching civil litigation and judicial review at The University of Law and the other half as a district judge”.
During the hearing, Becker, who reportedly heads Burlington Chambers in London, admitted that he was “careless” with his articulation in the “discourteous” email.
The tribunal said: “Timothy Becker, on 18 August 2018, acting for the defendant in civil proceedings under the public access scheme, sent an email.
“[He] suggested to the [recipient] that the Deputy District Judge in those proceedings, who happened to be female and Asian, had only secured her position as a result of ‘positive discrimination’ in the judicial recruitment process.”
The panel concluded on September 22 that there could be “no excuse for a member of the Bar to make such a statement, still less to make it in the course of litigation”.
“The remarks were rude and wholly contrary to the Bar’s commitment to equality,” it added.
“It is admitted by Mr Becker that a reasonable reader would have understood his remarks about DDJ Hussain being appointed as a consequence of ‘positive discrimination’ as a reference to her sex and/or race.
“He has now admitted that sending the email was likely to diminish the trust and confidence that the public places in him and the profession.
“As such, it is unnecessary for us to determine what meaning Mr Becker actually intended to convey.”
Becker had contended that his comments could be seen as racist or sexist, and denied charges of professional misconduct.
The tribunal observed that the case was an “isolated incident”, noting that Becker had a “clear disciplinary record”.
Later, in a statement, the barrister said the tribunal had found him to have breached the Bar Standards Board’s Code of Conduct “by being discourteous in 2018 about a member of the judiciary”.
“I suggested in a private email to a counterparty that she had gained her position as a DDJ only due to positive discrimination,” said Becker, who was called to the bar in 1992.
“I meant positive discrimination in favour of solicitor applicants (as I wrongly thought she was), but I accept that my remark could have been misinterpreted as a reference to the learned DDJ’s gender or race.
“I admitted the breach of the BSB’s code on this basis and I was rightly reprimanded and fined £750. I was not accused by the BSB of unlawful race or sex discrimination.
“I have always supported and encouraged BAME and female barrister applicants and continue to do so.
“I will continue with my longstanding commitment to equality and diversity at the bar.”