Her chambers has taken it well though.
Garden Court Chambers discriminated against one of its barristers because of her belief that males cannot become women, an employment tribunal has ruled.
Allison Bailey, a lesbian, was awarded £22,000 in damages for injury to feelings. However, her claim against Stonewall was rejected.
Bailey's fall-out with her chambers began when she objected to Garden Court signing up to Stonewall's Diversity Champions scheme in 2018, on the basis that the LGBT lobby group promoted self-ID, which maintains that a male can become a woman by identifying as one.
"There are many of us within the LGBT community who fully support trans rights but who do not support the trans-extremism that is currently being advocated by Stonewall and others in respect of the proposal for self-id", Bailey emailed her colleagues.
In response, one member said she was having dinner with Stonewall's then-chair Ruth Hunt, and would raise Bailey's concerns. "Great, now Allison’s wholly unfounded allegations are going to be aired with Ruth – nothing like washing our dirty trans-phobic laundry in public", Garden Court member Michelle Brewer wrote to a colleague.
Bailey continued to air her views after her chambers became a Diversity Champion. When Stonewall employed a transwoman who organised workshops which were billed as an opportunity for transwomen to "explore the sexual barriers” of lesbians and "strategise ways to overcome them", the barrister tweeted, "Stonewall recently hired Morgan Page, a male bodied person who ran workshops with the sole aim of coaching heterosexual men identifying as lesbians on how they can coerce young lesbians into having sex with them. Page called [it] 'overcoming the cotton ceiling' and it is popular".
In a second tweet, Bailey referred to a Sunday Times article which she said highlighted "the appalling levels of intimidation, fear and coercion that are driving the @stonewalluk trans self-ID agenda", and in a third she celebrated the launch of gender critical gay rights charity LGB Alliance.
Her tweets generated "an avalanche” of positive and negative responses on social media, and within chambers the divisions were almost as stark. Barrister Tom Wainwright emailed management claiming that Bailey's LGB Alliance tweet was "already causing damage to our reputation", pleading, "There must be something in our constitution or diversity policy which precludes this”.
Brewer told members that Bailey's tweets were "so intemperate" and "bloody shocking", and that "It has completely undermined our relationship with Stonewall". Notes of a trans rights meeting hosted by Garden Court recorded Brewer encouraging people to complain to Garden Court "expressing concern about Allison Bailey’s (barrister) transphobic comments on Twitter".
When Garden Court barrister Leslie Thomas, who had just become a member of the Bar Standards Board, pointedly emailed all members of chambers with a link to the new BSB Guidance on the Use of Social Media, Bailey replied that his efforts "could be construed as intimidating to those of us who are on social media advocating for views that may not be popular, but are nonetheless entirely lawful and reasonable".
While the social media storm intensified, Garden Court was facing other difficulties. It had entered into a contract for a new software system which the head of IT would not implement because "in his view it would wreck their systems". The chambers was contractually bound to make a £100,000 payment, and the chief executive had resigned.
Despite these other issues, members agreed that the head of marketing and communication, David de Menezes, should respond to each Twitter user who asked what Garden Court was doing about Bailey with a statement, which read in part, "We are investigating concerns raised about Allison Bailey’s comments in line with our complaints/BSB policies. We take these concerns very seriously and will take all appropriate action".
After Bailey complained that the statement was defamatory, joint head of chambers Judy Khan decided it might be a good idea to remove the tweet. But de Menezes replied that it had already been sent "to loads of people on Twitter" and that if it was deleted, "we will end up [with a] hugely adverse reaction from these people and an even more epic Twitter storm which is likely to get reported in media".
When Bailey was informed that Garden Court's responses would stay on Twitter, she exploded, "have you looked at who is sending these tweets of complaint? White men?! You are proceeding to destroy my career and smear my character, making public entirely private human resource declarations".
Garden Court conducted a probe into the matter which concluded that Bailey should delete the two tweets, but she refused, rejecting the suggestion that they breached her core duties as a barrister and arguing that the report’s reasoning was flawed and "relied far too heavily on the trans-lobby's talking points and propaganda".
The tribunal agreed, and upheld Bailey's claims that Garden Court discriminated against her because of her belief when it tweeted that complaints would be investigated, and when it found in its report that two of her tweets were likely to breach barristers’ core duties.
"Faced with a Twitter storm on gender self-identity, they picked sides", said the tribunal. Although Garden Court's members "all professed not to have a view in the sex versus gender debate”, it was evident that “they were opposed to her", and that her less favourable treatment "was because of her views about gender self-identity and Stonewall’s role promoting gender self-identity".
The tribunal's disclosure process revealed how the case consumed Garden Court’s tenants. Barrister Rajiv Menon commented to a colleague, "Why on earth has chambers been drawn into something that has nothing to do with us? When did we start investigating the tweets of those we disagree with posting news items like the one about Allison’s new group? We have unnecessarily made Allison a martyr and got mud all over our faces in the process". Henry Blaxland QC commented, "I still don’t properly get it. Sexual politics round the trans issue makes the Brexit debate seem positively benign".
The tribunal ruled that Bailey's gender critical views - that sex was an observable reality, that people could not change sex, and also that Stonewall's stance on gender theory was driving the erosion of women's rights, access to single sex spaces and lesbian identity - were all protected beliefs under the Equality Act.
It noted that "this is not to say that the claimant is right", and that "transwomen can also need safe spaces, because they too can be subject to violence; there may too be an element of moral panic about transwomen who are not convicted sex offenders being placed in women’s prisons".
The barrister's claims that her treatment led to a reduction in her income, and that Garden Court allowed Stonewall to direct its complaint procedure, were unsuccessful. The tribunal also rejected the claim that Brewer colluded with Stonewall to generate complaints about Bailey, ruling that Brewer's advocacy had been carried out in a personal capacity.
Bailey also lost her claim that Stonewall had induced or attempted to induce Garden Court to take action against her. The allegation hinged around an email sent to the set by Stonewall's Head of Trans Inclusion, Kirrin Medcalf, in which he complained that "for Garden Court Chambers to continue associating with a barrister who is actively campaigning for a reduction in trans rights and equality, while also specifically targeting our staff with transphobic abuse on a public platform, puts us in a difficult position with yourselves: the safety of our staff and community will always be Stonewall’s first priority".
The tribunal concluded that although Medcalf "was alive to Stonewall’s soft power" via its Diversity Champions scheme, it did not consider that his letter carried the threat of brand damage.
Commenting on the outcome, Bailey tweeted, "The Employment Tribunal found that Garden Court Chambers discriminated against me because of my gender critical belief".
"I have lost my case against Stonewall, but I have succeeded in exposing Stonewall’s conduct and the enormous - and to my mind, malign - influence it wields in the workplace and in society more generally. Organisations who put ‘Stonewall Law’ before Equality Law or seek to silence others from lawfully voicing their criticism of Stonewall may be acting unlawfully & will suffer the consequences, even if Stonewall does not", she said.
In a statement, a Stonewall spokesperson said, ‘We are pleased that the Employment Tribunal has ruled in a decision published today that Stonewall has NOT been found to have instructed, caused or induced Garden Court Chambers to discriminate against Allison Bailey". It said the case "did not accurately reflect our intentions and our influence on organisations” and that “Leaders within organisations are responsible for the organisational culture and the behaviour of their employees and workers”.
Garden Court said it was "reviewing the judgment carefully with our legal team with a view to appeal".