The case against Stonewall
Since launching my crowdfund last summer, there has been tremendous support for my lawsuit from around the world. There has also been speculation and some confusion about how I can sue Stonewall in the Employment Tribunal when they are not my employer. I have therefore set out below in some detail the legal basis for my claim against Stonewall and how this relates to my chambers, Garden Court Chambers. I also hope to demonstrate the complexity of this lawsuit and summarise the volume of work that has already been undertaken by my legal team and which must continue if I am to win this case.
My case is listed for the full merits hearing (the trial) from June 1-10 2021. However, before that, we have a Preliminary Hearing soon on 11 and 12 February. I had hoped to reopen my crowdfund after the Preliminary Hearing, however, due to the escalating legal costs, I need to raise further funds now.
The Preliminary Hearing is to determine applications put forward by the Respondents (Stonewall and Garden Court Chambers) and by me.
My application is to add Respondents to my case. At the time that the case was pleaded, I had only limited information available to me: I knew what had happened to me, but not who had done it, and how. I made a series of Subject Access Requests, the responses to which I had not received by the time I reached the time to lodge my claim. Once I received them, and in response to how the Respondents have chosen to defend the claim, I have applied to amend the claim to reflect what they told me, and what I learnt about who had been responsible. That will be dealt with at the February hearing. The amendment is not a change to the unlawful activity I allege took place, but it does reframe some of the legal argument behind it.
The key aspect of the hearing is that Stonewall has applied for the Tribunal to determine whether there was a relationship (which they say didn’t exist) between them and Garden Court Chambers in order for s.111 Equality Act 2010 to have effect. If Stonewall are successful in this, they will seek to have my claim against them struck out.
Section 111 is the aspect of the Equality Act 2010 on which I am relying to say that Stonewall acted unlawfully in causing me to be investigated. Section 111 says the following (and it is easier to read if you substitute “Stonewall” in place of Person “A” and “Garden Court” in place of Person “B”; I am Person “C”):
111 Instructing, causing or inducing contraventions
(1) A person (A) must not instruct another (B) to do in relation to a third person (C) anything which contravenes Part 3, 4, 5, 6 or 7 or section 108(1) or (2) or 112(1) (a basic contravention).
(2) A person (A) must not cause another (B) to do in relation to a third person (C) anything which is a basic contravention.
(3) A person (A) must not induce another (B) to do in relation to a third person (C) anything which is a basic contravention.
(4) For the purposes of subsection (3), inducement may be direct or indirect.
(5) Proceedings for a contravention of this section may be brought—
(a) by B, if B is subjected to a detriment as a result of A’s conduct;
(b) by C, if C is subjected to a detriment as a result of A’s conduct;
(c) by the Commission.
(6) For the purposes of subsection (5), it does not matter whether—
(a) the basic contravention occurs;
(b) any other proceedings are, or may be, brought in relation to A’s conduct.
(7) This section does not apply unless the relationship between A and B is such that A is in a position to commit a basic contravention in relation to B.
(8) A reference in this section to causing or inducing a person to do something includes a reference to attempting to cause or induce the person to do it.
(9) For the purposes of Part 9 (enforcement), a contravention of this section is to be treated as relating—
(a) in a case within subsection (5)(a), to the Part of this Act which, because of the relationship between A and B, A is in a position to contravene in relation to B;
(b) in a case within subsection (5)(b), to the Part of this Act which, because of the relationship between B and C, B is in a position to contravene in relation to C.
Our position is that there is a “relationship” according to ss.111(7) and (9) between Stonewall and Garden Court Chambers that is necessary for section 111 to have effect. Primarily, this relationship was through the Stonewall’s Diversity Champions Scheme, of which Garden Court was a member and through which Stonewall provided them goods and services. My case is that Stonewall unlawfully applied pressure which instructed, caused and induced me to be investigated by my chambers because I had campaigned against Stonewall specifically, and in favour of gender critical feminism more broadly; further that this pressure was applied by Stonewall onto Garden Court via the Diversity Champions Scheme, which gave Stonewall the relationship they needed to impose a threat that detriment would follow to Garden Court if they did not so yield to the pressure that Stonewall was applying. As a result of this, my claim alleges, the unlawful discrimination and victimisation by Garden Court Chambers was instructed, caused and induced by Stonewall, and therefore that Stonewall’s actions were unlawful by reason of section 111.
In order to prepare for this, my legal team has had to undertake a large amount of work.
So as to evidence the instructing, causing and inducing, we have had to dig deep into the communications between Chambers (and its members) and Stonewall, in order to demonstrate the detail of how the pleaded unlawful activity was done by Stonewall. This has involved yet further Subject Access Requests. The majority of these have come back redacted, and we have therefore sought to have the redactions removed through disclosure. This has been a rather drawn out process, which is not (as yet) concluded: the Respondents have not yet provided all of the disclosure that we have sought and many of the names that we need to see remain obscured. This is another point to which we shall return at the 11-12 February hearing. We have been successful however in getting some redactions removed, which have leant weight to my case. We fully expect to succeed.
As a result of this process, we have a very large draft hearing bundle, running to around 2,000 pages. This has been prepared by us, and the cost of this has therefore been borne by us. We have also already had two administrative hearings, so the February hearing will be the third. This has meant that a large amount of work has been required, although it has stood us in good stead for the trial in June because a lot of the work for the February hearing is relevant to the trial too. In effect the work has had to be “front-loaded”, meaning that time and expense has been incurred at an earlier stage than might have been the case in another more straightforward matter.
Between the February and June hearings, I will need to get full disclosure of the redacted material (and further material), and prepare witness evidence. There may also be further aspects of work which arise from the February hearing which will become clear after that hearing. So there is much work to do.