Update #11 – Yet Another Judgment Against Garden Court Chambers
On 3 November 2023, the Tribunal published its latest judgment in my case. This is the second costs judgment published since I won my case in August 2022. The original costs judgment ordered Garden Court Chambers to pay me £20,000 in costs as a consequence of their unreasonable conduct of the litigation, and despite them seeking hundreds of thousands of pounds in costs from me (which the Tribunal refused). Despite failing in that application, Garden Court Chambers then made another costs application, this time alleging that I had been unreasonable in not having accepted an earlier offer that they made to settle my costs application.
Such was the lack of merit in their latest costs application that my legal team asked that it be determined on the papers, without the need for a hearing. We lodged a short, written response by my barrister Ben Cooper KC. The Tribunal agreed that this was all that was necessary, and dismissed Garden Court Chambers’ application without needing to hear further from any of the parties.
My defence to their latest costs application was that they were misconceived in alleging that I had been unreasonable in not accepting their offer for settlement. The reason why I had not accepted their offer was their conduct after the substantive judgment on my case was handed down in August 2022: they had left their original 2019 statements, declaring I was under investigation for making gender-critical statements, live on their website for nearly a year after the Tribunal had found those statements to be unlawful discrimination, which had contributed to them having to pay damages and aggravated damages to me. Once that substantive judgment was handed down in August 2022, Garden Court Chambers then issued another statement, which I felt implied that they didn’t accept the judgment, and previewed an appeal that in the event was never forthcoming. At the point at which they offered to settle the costs applications, those statements were still on their website.
I did not reject their offer for settlement of the costs applications, and would have been happy to settle on reasonable terms. But I communicated that it would need to be a term of any settlement that they withdraw their website statements, and issue a short, neutral statement acknowledging the judgment I had secured against them. Garden Court Chambers deleted some of their website statements (without making it clear that they had done so) but refused to publish anything about the judgment in which they had been found to have unlawfully discriminated, even in the most neutral terms. They also refused to provide me with any explanation for this. In the absence of even this most basic of gestures, I could not therefore agree their offer for settlement. Their refusal to engage further with me necessitated the first costs hearing, and the costs award that they were ordered to pay me.
In its latest judgment, the Tribunal has agreed with me that I was not unreasonable to have taken this position, and rejected Garden Court Chambers’ further costs application. The Tribunal said that I had not acted unreasonably and had merely “wanted some gesture of acceptance or reconciliation” which the Tribunal described as “a modest request” on my part.
The litigation against Garden Court Chambers is therefore — finally —at an end. It started in April 2020, so has taken 3 ½ years, and a further 17 months after the conclusion of the trial in May 2022. Garden Court Chambers has at all stages made this process unnecessarily costly and stressful. They have achieved absolutely nothing in doing so, save to pile aggravated damages on top of what I would otherwise have been awarded, incur vast legal fees for themselves and for me, pay portions of my costs, and put their own poor conduct into the public domain. All of the opprobrium and reputational damage that Garden Court Chambers has suffered because of its treatment of me has been entirely self-inflicted. It ought to be a warning to other organisations – particularly self-identifying moral campaigners like Garden Court Chambers, whose motto “do right, fear no-one” now rings remarkably hollow – that unlawful discrimination is never acceptable. The courts and tribunals will judge you on your actions, not on your slogans.
I engaged on this litigation in the misplaced hope that Garden Court Chambers’ army of garlanded lawyers would recognise the inevitable damage they would do to their reputations if they forced the case to go the distance, and I told them this on several occasions. While I am very pleased that I was successful in the litigation, I am nevertheless saddened that Garden Court Chambers were not blessed with the self awareness or legal acumen to enable them to make better decisions and avoid the damage that they have done to themselves. They have still made no acknowledgment of their unlawful conduct and I have had to leave Garden Court Chambers, and the Bar. Despite the disappointment that Garden Court Chambers has been, I hope that they will at least serve some purpose – as a cautionary tale to organisations in similar situations.
Although the case against Garden Court Chambers has now concluded, the litigation against Stonewall continues. My appeal against them is to be heard on 13 and 14 May 2024 at the Employment Appeal Tribunal. Ben Cooper KC is again instructed, and I will update you all closer to the hearing on progress.