Criminal Bar survey shows high incidence of harassment
A survey of members of the Criminal Bar Association has shown that 88.1% of respondents had personally experienced or witnessed harassment or bullying behaviour.
There were 283 respondents to the survey, of whom 64% were women. Just over 40% of respondents were barristers sole and 5% employed barristers, with another 18% employed by a law firm, 12% working for the Public Defence Service and 11% employed by the Crown, Police or Government.
When asked about the nature of the harassment or bullying behaviour, the most common were mocking or professionally insulting behaviour, invalid or baseless criticism or fault finding and shouting or a raised voice. Over one quarter of respondents (28.5%) reported unwelcome sexual attention.
What type of harassment or bullying behaviour have you experienced or witnessed?
|Nature of behaviour||% respondents|
|Invalid or baseless criticsm/fault finding||60.1%|
|Based on age/experience||56.9%|
|Based on gender||45.9%|
|Unwelcome sexual attention||28.5%|
|Threats - overt or covert||27.3%|
|Being set unrealistic goals/expectations||24.5%|
|Based on race||17.0%|
|Withholding information vital to effective work performance||13.0%|
|Deliberate exclusion from workplace activities||8.3%|
|Based on family circumstances||5.9%|
|Based on sexual orientation||4.7%|
Who was doing the harassment/bullying?
Respondents who had experienced or witnessed harassment or bullying behaviour were asked who was doing the harassment or bullying. The most common group were judges, with 64.7% citing them.
|Doing the harassing/bullying||% respondents|
|Colleague/group of colleagues||43.9%|
|Police Officer/Police Prosecutor||23.1%|
|A member of the public||18.4%|
|A Court staff member||12.2%|
|Someone who works for you||2.4%|
Harassment/bulling in last four years
Respondents were asked how many times they had witnessed or experienced harassment or bullying in the last four years. Almost one-fifth of respondents reported more than 20 occasions.
|Times in last four years||% respondents|
|0 to 5||40.4%|
|6 to 10||21.7%|
|More than 10||20.2%|
|More than 20||17.7%|
Effect of the behaviour
The survey asked respondents what effect the behaviour had on them or the person being harassed/bullied. The most common impacts were stress (78%) and loss of confidence (73%).
|Effect of behaviour||% respondents|
|Loss of confidence||73.1%|
|Reduced desire to continue working in that field||61.3%|
|Fear of re-entering the environment||39.5%|
|Breakdown of the professional working relationship||39.1%|
|Moving to another position/job||19.4%|
|Taking more sick leave||10.3%|
|High blood pressure||6.3%|
Where complaints were directed
Respondents were asked if they had ever made an official report or complaint about bullying they had witnessed or experienced. Over 80% said No.
|Have you ever made an official report or complaint||% respondents|
Direction of official reports or complaints
The 73 respondents who said they had made an official report or complaint were asked to whom they had complained. Nearly half said they had complained to the supervisor or employer of the person concerned.
|Who did you complain to||% respondents|
|The supervisor/employer of the person concerned||46.6%|
|The Law Society or professional body||38.4%|
|The Judicial Conduct Commissioner||4.1%|
Resolution of formal complaint
Those who did complain formally were asked if the complaint process resolved the issue. The majority said No.
|Did the complaint process resolve the issue||% respondents|
|In some ways||36.7%|
|I don't know||15.0%|
Reasons for no formal complaint
Respondents who did not complain formally were asked why they did not. The most common reason was that complaining would not have made a difference.
|Why did you not complain formally||% respondents|
|Wouldn't have made a difference||59.8%|
|Afraid of repercussions/ongoing relationship||55.1%|
|Worried about how I would be perceived||41..%|
|The behaviour wouldn't have seemed bad "on paper", you "had to be there"||33.3%|
|Didn't know how to complain||9.4%|
Discussion with colleagues
Respondents who had experienced harassment or bullying were asked if they had talked to their colleagues about it on an informal basis. Over 90% said they had.
|Did you talk to your colleagues about it informally||% respondents|
The survey asked respondents about the last occasion they had witnessed or experienced harassment or bullying, and what the genders of those involved were.
|What were the genders||% respondents|
|Person doing harassing/bullying was a male, the target was a female||55.2%|
|Person doing harassing/bullying was a male, the target was a male||19.1%|
|Person doing harassing/bullying was a female, the target was a female||17.5%|
|Person doing harassing/bullying was a female, the target was a male||8.3%|
Age and experience
On the last occasion they had witnessed or experienced harassment or bullying, 71% of respondents said age/experience disparity was a factor.
|Was age/experience disparity a factor||% respondents|
Helping reduce harassment/bullying
Respondents were given a list of factors and asked to select those which they felt would be most likely to help reduce harassment/bullying. Being able to raise issues in an anonymous way was the most selected.
|Would help reduce harassment/bullying||% respondents|
|Being able to raise issues in an anonymous way||28.9%|
|A support system/mentoring||18.5%|
|Asking for a more senior colleague to review the||12.1%|
|Assistance from the Law Society/Branch||10.4%|
|Professional assistance (eg a counsellor or psychologist) to develop skills to improve the situation||9.2%|
Last updated on the 16th September 2019