It all started well enough. The Equality and Human Rights Commission, a UK government agency charged with promoting and enforcing equality and non-discrimination laws, tweeted a student who was told that her natural Afro-style hair was against uniform school policy. The EHRC became involved and the school overturned its policy. The tweet included the message: “The Equality Act 2010 is clear; Nobody should be discriminated against because of their race ”and included a short video about the case.
Cute isn’t it? But then Jon Holbrook at Cornerstone Barristers just had to * answer *. His tweet uses racist tropes in the most British way possible about students wanting to wear their hair naturally.
Holbrook told Legal Cheek that despite the uproar over his insensitive tweet, he won’t delete it:
“Liberal democracies require free speech and we curtail it at our risk. For years, through my articles and tweets, I have criticized laws that allow individual rights to surpass collective interests. Many provisions of the Gender Equality Act do this, which is why I criticize them in my political capacity. “
“Some legal activists on the left would prefer to silence their opponents. Unable to enter into reasoned arguments, they seek a legal profession from practitioners who share their own bright opinions.
“My political views are never expressed as a member of Cornerstone Barristers because they have nothing to do with my work as a member. My day job is about the law, my political interest about how it should be. Many of my critics do not seem to understand this distinction. Others are simply motivated by an aversion to conservative and populist opinions. Freedom of speech must take precedence over the culture of abandonment. “
Sure, you can tell what terrible opinions you have, but that doesn’t mean you should. And that certainly doesn’t mean that others don’t [should] Judge that you are taking such a purposely ignorant and harmful position. He says that young people are in a bad mood and arguably easy because they want to wear their hair naturally. That has built in all sorts of negative racial stereotypes.
As a result, colleagues – including his own chambers – are naturally trying to distance themselves from Holbrook.
In a statement released on Saturday, Cornerstone Barristers announced that the tweet became known late Friday. “We want to make it very clear that Cornerstone Barristers rejects the content of the tweet and everything it claims,” the statement said.
Now the joint chamber chiefs Philip Coppel QC and Tom Cosgrove QC said they “repeat this rejection”.
In a joint statement, Coppel and Cosgrove told Legal Cheek, “Mr. Holbrook was asked on both Friday January 22nd and Saturday January 23rd to immediately and permanently delete the tweet. Mr. Holbrook refuses to do this. The Board of Cornerstone Barristers is looking into the matter. “
Her statement went on:
“To be clear, this matter is taken very seriously. The content of this tweet is contrary to the views of Cornerstone Barristers. We clearly condemn discrimination in all its forms and are proud of our record as diverse chambers that promote social mobility at the bar. “
And that’s not the end of the – fully deserved – pile:
Leslie Thomas QC of Garden Court Chambers wrote of his former colleague, “Jon, I can’t believe you sent this tweet. What happened to you I was proud once that as a colleague at Garden Court when you were younger, you fought for the rights of others against villainous landlords. This tweet is just wrong. [It] makes you unrecognizable to me now [is] why i call it. “
David Turner QC of 4 New Square described it as “the most shameful tweet” he had ever seen from a lawyer, while Alexandra Wilson of 5 St. Andrews Hill said, “I am embarrassed to be in the same job as someone like this his.” .
Wilson, a diversity attorney at the bar, continued, “The truth is, he should be ashamed. This tweet has been active for days and has still not been deleted. Stroppy? Because you want to go to school with her natural hair? It is really frustrating that so many of us are trying to improve the public’s awareness of our profession and such people completely undermine that. “
Meanwhile, Becky Agates of Foregate Chambers wrote, “I’ve sat here and stared at the screen … can’t write … you’re a part of my job … a job I love and respect … but you feel safe and comfortable when you tweet something like that … what’s wrong with you (other than the obvious) … do the right thing, take it down. “
At least Holbrook is no longer hiding his problematic worldview, and those who choose to work with him now know exactly what they are getting into.
Kathryn Rubino is Senior Editor at Above the Law and host of The Jabot podcast. AtL tipsters are the best so please connect with her. Feel free to email her tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@ Kathryn1).