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Suella Braverman Accused Of Breaching Barristers’ Code Over ‘racist’ Language

Lawyers and faith organisations have lodged a complaint with the Bar Standards Board claiming the home secretary Suella Braverman, a qualified barrister, has breached the body’s code of conduct with “racist sentiments and discriminatory narratives”.

Although Braverman has not practised as a barrister since becoming an MP in 2015 she is still subject to certain professional rules governing conduct by the Bar Standards Board which regulates barristers in England and Wales.

The body has a remit to examine the conduct of barristers who are not currently practising but who remain members of the profession and are subject to conduct rules and are expected to “conduct themselves in an appropriate manner”.

Nine organisations including the Society of Asian Lawyers, the Association of Muslim Lawyers and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants have written to the Bar Standards Board urging them to investigate and take action against what they claim is racist and inflammatory language used by the home secretary about British men of Pakistani heritage and asylum seekers.

The letter cites Braverman’s comment in April 2023 that grooming gang members were predominantly British-Pakistani men and “hold cultural values totally at odds with British values”.

The letter also raises Braverman’s warning that 100 million asylum seekers would come to the UK were it not for her planned immigration crackdown and that people crossing the channel have values at odds with the UK and ‘heightened levels of criminality’. She has described the arrival of asylum seekers in the UK as an ‘invasion’.

“These comments are not only highly inaccurate and offensive, but they also perpetuate harmful stereotypes and contribute to a climate of hate and prejudice,” the complaint letter states.

“As a member of the legal profession, Ms Braverman should be held to a high standard of professionalism and ethical conduct. Her statements not only undermine the integrity of the legal profession, but they also have the potential to damage the reputation of the UK as a tolerant and inclusive society,” it adds.

The letter cites three specific Bar Council Code of Conduct Rules it claims have been breached including behaving in a way which is likely to diminish trust and confidence, conduct which the public may reasonably perceive as undermining honesty, integrity or independence and a breach of the instruction not to discriminate against any other person on the grounds of race, colour, ethnic or national origin or other grounds.

“It is crucial that members of the legal profession uphold the highest standards of integrity, impartiality, and professionalism. Ms Braverman’s comments are a clear violation of these standards and should not go unchallenged,” the letter concludes.

The signatories of the letter point out that in 2020 a Home Office-commissioned report found that the majority of child sexual offenders were white and that there was not enough evidence to suggest members of grooming gangs were more likely to be Asian.

The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford has said it is not aware of any recent academic or official statistics examining criminality among refugees who had recently arrived in the UK and that ‘there is little evidence that migrants are any more or less likely to commit crimes than any other members of the population’.

The letter adds: “It is our view that Ms Braverman’s comments incite violence against the British Pakistani and Muslim community as well as refugee communities, fuelling racist sentiments and discriminatory narratives.”

Responding to earlier criticism of the home secretary’s comments from fellow Conservative Rehman Chishti, a Home Office spokesperson told the Observer: “As the home secretary has said, the vast majority of British-Pakistanis are law-abiding, upstanding citizens, but independent reviews were unequivocal that, in towns like Rochdale, Rotherham and Telford, cultural sensitivities have meant thousands of young girls were abused under the noses of councils and police.”

A spokesperson for the Bar Standards Board said they did not comment on individual complaints received.

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