Holbrook logs in to Twitter
A barrister has been expelled from chambers for tweeting that a black teenager was "stroppy" when she challenged her school for banning her afro.
Barrister John Holbrook had tweeted on 17 January that the Equality Act "undermines school discipline by empowering the stroppy teenager of colour." His tweet was in response to a video by the Equality and Human Rights Commission describing how it had assisted teenager Ruby Williams and her parents, when Williams was sent home repeatedly by her school for having an afro hair style. Holbrook was pilloried on social media for his comment.
Cornerstone Barristers has now expelled Holbrook after an internal investigation. A spokeswoman said the set repudiated Holbrook's "particularly offensive tweet".
"Members were clear that statements made on social media by Mr Holbrook were irreconcilable with membership of Cornerstone Barristers," said the spokeswoman. "We unequivocally condemn discrimination in all its forms."
Holbrook claimed he had resigned four days before he was booted out. He defended his tweet in an article in The Critic, stating that his "unblemished professional record" of thirty years had been ended by a "one sentence tweet on a platform designed to be polemical."
"I did not view this as a case of racism by the school," he argued. "I saw it as challenge to school discipline by a child and her parents who were seeking a dispensation on racial grounds." He said that he did not break Twitter rules, and an investigation by Twitter did not remove his tweet.
Holbrook suggested the "woke mob" on Twitter attempted to "cancel" him, including the Shadow Justice Secretary, David Lammy MP who posted "you shame the Bar."
"The only reason that Chambers proceeded to expel me, despite my resignation, was because the salivating attack dogs wanted some red meat to chew," said Holbrook. "Chambers was compliant enough to jump to their barking but it made no difference to me – save to enhance my reputation as a free speech advocate."
Holbrook said that he'd intended to stop practising as a barrister, but the "attempted cancellation" prompted "the manner and timing" of his resignation. He said he would now devote "more time to polemicise against the woke whose contempt for reasoned debate becomes clearer with each attempted cancellation".
Williams told the Guardian that the case was a big part of her life for a long time, and she shouldn't just be "summed up" as a "stroppy teenager of colour." She said she was grateful that the matter had "been taken so seriously".
The teenager said she was not pleased that Holbrook had been expelled. However, she thought he had "very dangerous" views, and said she personally wouldn't want legal representation from "a barrister who thinks that the Equality Act has a harmful impact on free speech."