Bullying & Harassment

1. Statement of Policy

1.1 Chambers is committed to providing a working environment in which all individuals including Members, Pupils, mini-pupils, staff, clients and the public are treated with dignity and respect.  Chambers aims to promote a working environment, which is conducive to the professional growth of its members and employees and to the promotion of Chambers’ Fundamental Principles and Aims.

1.2 Chambers will not tolerate any form of harassment and will take all necessary steps to ensure that its members and employees are not subject to harassment.

2. The Scope of the Policy

2.1 This policy applies to all Members and staff of Chambers, to pupils, interns and to mini-pupils.  The policy applies to:

(a) All premises where Chambers’ business is conducted;

(b) All Chambers’ related activities performed at any other site away from Chambers; and

(c) Any social, business, or other function where conduct or comments may have an effect on Chambers or relationships within Chambers.

2.2 Before joining all Members of Chambers, Chambers employees/members of staff, and pupils, and those applying for an internship or mini-pupillage will have to have read and indicated that they understand and will abide by this policy.

3. Definition of Harassment

3.1 Harassment is any form of unwanted conduct, including the sending of emails or the use of other electronic media, which has the aim or effect of diminishing personal dignity or creating a humiliating or offensive environment for the recipient.  The essence of all harassment is that it is unwelcome conduct, which is offensive to the recipient.  The test is a subjective one and the fact that one person may be able to ignore or deal comfortably with certain behaviour does not mean that it is acceptable if directed at another.

3.2 Chambers prohibits any behaviour which unreasonably causes offence or distress to another.  Harassment may take a variety of forms and includes behaviour:

(a) Which is unwanted by the recipient and perceived as threatening;

(b) Which causes a hostile or threatening working environment;

(c) Where rejection or submission is used as a basis for decisions concerning the recipient, for example decisions relating to awards of pupillage, acceptance to Membership, promotion, or other opportunities for career advancement.

3.3 The following are examples of behaviour, which may amount to harassment:

(a) Physical assault, including sexual assault;

(b) Demands for sexual favours in return for career advancement;

(c) Unnecessary physical contact;

(d) Exclusion from social networks and activities;

(e) Isolation;

(f) Bullying;

(g) Offensive remarks or ridicule;

(h) Offensive or aggressive communications of any kind;

(i) Threats, whether explicit or implied; and

(j) Unreasonable and vexatious conduct of any kind.

3.4 Disciplinary action will be taken against any Member, Pupil, or staff of Chambers found to have harassed a colleague or other person in the conduct of their work or within a Chambers context.

4. Communication of the Policy on Harassment

4.1 A copy of this policy is available on Rose Court Chambers Website.  If it appears to the Standing Committee that it is necessary, a briefing will be provided so that all members and employees are aware of behaviour which is unacceptable within the working environment and are aware of the harassment policy, procedures for making complaints, and assistance available.

5. Informal Resolution Options

5.1 When conduct gives rise to a complaint, the complainant may choose to communicate their disapproval and objections immediately to the actor, if they feel able to do so, and request that person to desist.

5.2 If offensive conduct continues, or if the recipient does not wish to communicate with the actor, the complainant may bring their concerns (informally) to the attention of the Standing Committee. Chambers will provide advice or support and will undertake any investigation necessary to resolve the matter, speedily and, so far as possible, in confidence.  If, after one week of the receipt of informal notification of the complaint (as described above) satisfactory informal resolution has not been achieved and the complaint is maintained, the formal procedure should be followed.

6. Formal Complaints Resolution

6.1 Where a complainant does not wish to pursue the informal resolution options or has exhausted such options, they may make a formal complaint in writing to a member of the Standing Committee.  All such complaints will be promptly investigated.

6.2 Within one week of the receipt of the complaint an investigation of the allegation will be made and completed within 14 days, unless there are good reasons for delay.  The complainant and other parties will be provided with a copy of the written complaint and the proposed procedure for investigation as soon as possible after receipt of formal complaint.

6.3 Investigations will be conducted in accordance with standards of natural justice.  Where possible, parties to the complaint will be accompanied by a colleague or friend at any hearing (if they so wish).

6.4 If the allegation of harassment is upheld, appropriate actions will be taken.  This may include any of the following:

(a) Requirement for formal apology;

(b) Counselling;

(c) Written warning;

(d) Change of work assignment;

(e) Suspension, expulsion or discharge from Chambers;

(f) Report to the relevant Inn recommending the removal of pupil supervisor status;

(g) Referral to the relevant regulator.

7. Confidentiality

7.1 Chambers recognises that victims of harassment may find it difficult to come forward with a complaint and they understand that recipients and alleged harassers may be particularly concerned about confidentiality and the effect that a complaint may have on career advancement.  To protect the interests of the complainant, the person complained against, and any others who may report or be witnesses to incidents of harassment, confidentiality will be maintained throughout any investigatory process to the extent that this is practical and appropriate under the circumstances.  However, Chambers has a duty to ensure that harassment does not re-occur. All records of complaints, including notes of meetings, interviews, results of investigations and other relevant material will be kept confidential by chambers except where disclosure is required for disciplinary or other remedial processes.

7.2 Whatever the outcome of any allegation, any confidentiality continuing after the resolution of a complaint shall belong solely to the complainant.

8. Victimisation

8.1 Chambers is committed to ensuring that no one who brings forward a harassment concern is subject to any form of reprisal.  

8.2 Any victimisation of a complainant, witness or anyone else involved in the investigation of a complaint will be viewed as a disciplinary matter.  Whether or not a complaint is upheld, unless it is malicious the raising of such a complaint will not have any adverse consequences for the complainant, particularly in relation to tenancy and promotion decisions.

9. Pupillage and Probationary Tenants

9.1 Pupillage is a period of professional training. Accordingly Chambers regards it as absolutely inappropriate for any sexual relationship to be allowed to develop between a pupil supervisor, any other Member, or staff of Chambers and a pupil or probationary tenant.  Any such relationship will necessarily involve a breach of trust by the member involved.. In the event of such a relationship, any Member of Chambers involved must self-report to the Standing Committee; and no such Member of Chambers may participate directly or indirectly in decisions concerning a pupil where they are or have been in a relationship with that pupil.

10. External Recourse

10.1 The Bar Council’s Equality and Diversity Advisers are available at the Bar Council to offer advice in confidence to any recipient of harassment or to any member of chambers responding to a complaint of harassment.  The confidential helpline number (a direct dial number) is 0207 611 1310.

10.2 It shall be a disciplinary matter for any person to seek to dissuade a complainant from making a complaint to an external body.