Anti-harassment Policy

1.1 This policy covers all those working in Devon Chambers, visiting Devon Chambers and providing services to Devon Chambers. It covers, amongst others, tenants, pupils, members of staff and instructing solicitors.

1.2 Devon Chambers is committed to providing a work environment in which all individuals, clients and the public are treated with dignity and respect.  Devon Chambers is determined to promote a work environment in which everyone is treated equally and with dignity and can flourish. This Anti-Harassment Policy is a central plank of Chambers’ commitment and will be applied rigorously.

1.3 Harassment in any form will not be tolerated at Devon Chambers.

1.4 Harassment is any form of unwanted conduct, which has the aim, or effect of diminishing a person’s dignity or creating a humiliating or offensive environment for that person. 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.

1.5 Devon Chambers prohibits any behaviour which causes offence or distress to another and which is perceived by that person as relating to or arising from their race, religion, political belief, sexual orientation, gender (including trans, non-binary, and gender-fluid identities) or disability and which constitutes less favourable treatment on such grounds. Harassment may take a variety of forms and includes behaviour:

  • Which is unwanted by the recipient and perceived as threatening;
  • Which causes a hostile or threatening working environment; or
  • Where rejection or submission is used as a basis for decisions concerning the recipient e.g. decision relating to award of pupillage, appointment of tenancy, promotion or other opportunities for career advancement.

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

  • Physical or sexual assault;
  • Requests for sexual favours in return for career development;
  • Unnecessary physical contact;
  • Exclusion from social networks and activities or other forms of isolation;
  • Bullying;
  • Compromising suggestions or invitations;
  • Suggestive remarks or looks;
  • Display of offensive materials, including on a computer screen;
  • Tasteless jokes or verbal abuse, including any sent by email;
  • Offensive remarks or ridicule;
  • Dealing inappropriately in inadequately with complaints of harassment.

1.7 Complaints of harassment may be raised informally in the first instance with the Equality and Diversity officer, the Head of Chambers or another senior member of chambers who will agree an appropriate response. Formal complaints should be made under the grievance procedure set out in this Manual.

1.8 Harassment is misconduct or gross misconduct for employees or a breach of the Bar Code of Conduct for barristers. Allegations of harassment will be dealt with under the Disciplinary procedure

1.9 Allegations which may amount to serious misconduct by a barrister, may be reported to the BSB under its reporting procedure.

1.10 Chambers is committed to ensuring that no one who makes an allegation of harassment in good faith should be subjected to any detriment as a result.

1.11 Chambers recognise that a recipient 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 to 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.

1.12 The procedure for investigating any complaint of harassment bullying or unwanted behaviour is as follows:-

1.12.1 The Head of Chambers will call a meeting of 3 senior members of chambers (including the Head of Chambers or someone deputed on their behalf) to consider whether there are any grounds to the complaint.  In the event that the committee concludes that there are no grounds, the complainant shall be informed accordingly and told of their further grounds for redress.

1.12.2 In the event that the committee concludes that there are grounds to complain, the complainant shall be so informed and invited to pursue the matter further.  The Head of Chambers shall, where appropriate, inform the Bar Standards Board, the relevant Inn and, if necessary, any law enforcement agency

1.13 Any member, employee, pupil or mini-pupil in chambers has the right to bring to the attention of an appropriate person any behaviour, which they consider to be contrary to the harassment policy, irrespective of whether they are the recipients of the harassment. A member or employee of chambers who witnesses behaviour, which they consider contravenes the harassment policy, should take immediate action to indicate that such behaviour is unacceptable as failure to do so could be interpreted as condoning such behaviour.

1.14 A copy of this policy is provided to all those for whom chambers constitutes a working environment, including members of chambers, pupils, squatters, clerks and other employees, temporary workers, those who provide services to chambers such as contract cleaners, accountants and IT consultants, and mini-pupils and work experience students.

This policy was adopted on 5 August 2016 and will be reviewed at Chambers’ AGM in April of each year.