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Top black QC describes the Queen’s privy council as a ‘last vestige of colonialism’

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  • June 9, 2022June 10, 2022

A high black lawyer has described the Queen’s privy council because the ‘final vestige of colonialism’ and known as for British judges to cease serving as the ultimate court docket of enchantment for Commonwealth nations.

Leslie Thomas, QC, who works in London, claimed that it was time to axe the judicial committee of the privy council, which acts as the ultimate court docket of enchantment for 32 abroad jurisdictions, together with 12 unbiased nations. 

The committee is made up of judges who principally sit on the UK Supreme Courtroom and it’s also primarily based in the identical location in Parliament Sq..

Traditionally, it was the ultimate court docket of enchantment for a number of former British colonies, although many have since eliminated its jurisdiction.  

Mr Thomas says the Caribbean Courtroom of Justice ought to now be the highest bench for the area. 

He beforehand hit the headlines after he stated Britain’s conventional 17th century court docket wigs are ‘culturally insensitive’ and ought to be banned. 

Leslie Thomas, QC, who works in London, says the Caribbean Courtroom of Justice ought to now be the highest bench for the area

The judicial committee of the privy council acts as the final court of appeal for 32 overseas jurisdictions, including 12 independent nations

The judicial committee of the privy council acts as the ultimate court docket of enchantment for 32 abroad jurisdictions, together with 12 unbiased nations

He’s the most recent to make the decision after Professor Rosalea Hamilton, a Jamaican lawyer who based its Institute of Regulation and Economics, used the Caribbean tour of Prince William and Kate in March to criticise the privy council.

Who’s Leslie Thomas QC?

Leslie Thomas, 57, is likely one of the UK’s main attorneys, having been part of a few of the largest trials in current historical past. 

Mr Thomas was born and grew up in London, and attended an inside London complete college. Beforehand, he has spoken about having to retake his A-Ranges. 

Based on a web based profile, he’s a number one professional in claims towards the police and different public authorities, and claims towards company our bodies. 

He additionally often acts for purchasers within the Caribbean area on constitutional legislation challenges and is an advocate for purchasers in human rights instances. 

The case that first put him on the map was when he secured an illegal killing determination towards a serving police officer within the Azelle Rodney public taking pictures enquiry in 2013.

A 12 months later, he represented 11 households who misplaced relations within the  Hillsborough catastrophe.

 Since then, he has acted as an advocate for households within the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and the Impartial Inquiry into Baby Intercourse Abuse.

He was additionally lead counsel to the household of Mark Duggan on the 2016 inquest into Duggan’s dying – which sparked the 2011 riots throughout England. 

He has steadily spoken about discrimination and colonialism, having known as for Britain’s conventional 17th century court docket wigs to be banned for being ‘culturally insensitive’. 

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In an interview with Instances Regulation right now, Thomas stated: ‘Opposite to the broadly held perception that the privy council is extra unbiased than the Caribbean Courtroom of Justice, current instances debunk this fantasy and actually set up that the CCJ has in recent times been a significantly better protector of elementary human rights than the privy council.

‘The time is true to eliminate the final vestiges of colonialism and for Caribbean nations and peoples to have renewed religion within the CCJ. It has definitely confirmed its value.’

Professor Hamilton stated in March: ‘The colonial legacies which might be perpetuated in insurance policies, legal guidelines and institutional preparations that encourage conformity to norms and practices, are ill-suited for the fashionable world.’

She additionally added it was ‘time to dismantle the final vestiges of our colonial establishment and the ideological underpinning of racism, discrimination and inequality that persist on this planet’. 

Mr Thomas was beforehand within the information after he stated that Britain’s conventional 17th century court docket wigs are ‘culturally insensitive’ and ought to be banned.

He stated the white Georgian-style hair items look ‘ridiculous’ on black advocates and are ‘original for caucasian hair’. 

It got here after Michael Etienne, a black barrister with an afro, was advised he risked being in contempt of court docket if he refused to put on one – earlier than suggesting the custom was an instance of ‘hair discrimination’. 

Mr Etienne, a specialist in public and human rights instances, had written to the Bar Council to hunt steering on the difficulty. 

The junior barrister tweeted: ‘Requested the Bar Council what might occur if, as a Black Barrister with an Afro, I declined to put on my wig. 

‘The reply included: ‘contempt of court docket’, ‘wasted prices’ and numerous potential breaches of Code of Conduct. ‘Until the insistence was discriminatory”

He added hashtag #HairDiscrimination to his tweet. 

It comes amid rising calls to outlaw hair discrimination – which frequently sees black adults and schoolchildren undergo criticism in the event that they don dreadlocks, braids or afros.

The hairstyles might be deemed as ‘unprofessional’ in discriminatory settings on account of deep-rooted eurocentric ideas of neatness. 

Etienne added: ‘To be clear, I did not ask for dispensation. I requested the Bar Council for a sign of whether or not I is likely to be prone to sanction.’

Michael Etienne (pictured) was told he risked being in contempt of court if he refused to wear a wig - before suggesting the tradition was an example of 'hair discrimination'

Michael Etienne (pictured) was advised he risked being in contempt of court docket if he refused to put on a wig – earlier than suggesting the custom was an instance of ‘hair discrimination’

Leslie Thomas (pictured), QC, said the white Georgian-style hair pieces look 'ridiculous' on black advocates and are 'fashioned for caucasian hair'.

Leslie Thomas (pictured), QC, stated the white Georgian-style hair items look ‘ridiculous’ on black advocates and are ‘original for caucasian hair’.

He stated the Bar Council ‘does not make the principles however it’s imagined to be the consultant physique, So, we’d hope it takes proactive steps to handle this concern within the pursuits of its black members’.  

When a fellow Twitter consumer advised Mr Etienne ‘tie again’ his hair, he replied: ‘Afro does not simply ‘tie again’. 

‘Tie it down, perhaps. However I object to restraining my hair as a situation of going to work.’ 

What’s the Privy Council? 

The Privy Council is likely one of the oldest components of the UK’s constitutional preparations, with its origins courting again to the time of the Norman kings when the monarch met in non-public – therefore the outline Privy – along with his or her group of trusted counsellors who fulfilled the position that the Cupboard performs right now.

In addition to advising the Queen, it offers administrative assist for the leaders of the Commons and Lords. It additionally has accountability for the affairs of 400 establishments, charities and firms included by Royal Constitution.

The physique additionally has a judicial position as it’s the court docket of ultimate enchantment for the UK abroad territories and Crown Dependencies, and for a variety of Commonwealth nations.

 It additionally has a variety of vital govt features – Parliament is dissolved by proclamation accredited by the Queen in Council and the monarch formally prorogues Parliament on the Council’s recommendation.

Members of the Privy Council are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister. Membership of the Privy Council is for all times, and members are entitled to be addressed as ‘Proper Honourable’. 

Anybody becoming a member of the Privy Council is required to take an oath or a solemn affirmation to ‘hold secret all issues…handled of in Council’. Members of the Privy Council are generally known as Privy Counsellors.

There are at the moment round 650 Privy Counsellors. All Cupboard Ministers are, or should change into, members of the Privy Council. The Chief of the Opposition can be appointed to the Privy Council so she or he can obtain briefings on issues associated to the nationwide curiosity on privy counsellor phrases.

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Sam Mercer, head of equality on the Bar Council, advised the Instances that the organisation was now ‘completely’ ready to ‘take soundings’ on the difficulty. 

The white wigs worn by barristers, generally known as perukes, are seen by some as an emblem of authority, and supply a stage of anonymity to the QCs sporting them. 

They’re not worn in most court docket hearings in England and Wales, however they’re necessary within the crown court docket, sure civil hearings and the Excessive Courtroom and Courtroom of Attraction.  

However Mr Thomas, one of the crucial excessive profile black barristers within the nation, branded them ‘nonsense’ and stated they need to be scrapped totally.

He advised the Instances: ‘Wigs are 17th century male style, to have them within the 21st century is nonsense.’   

Peter Herbert, a former part-time decide and barrister, added that he by no means wore a conventional wig or compelled advocates showing earlier than him put on them.

‘The sky did not fall in, juries had been pleased, barristers didn’t get recognised by criminals and justice was nonetheless achieved,’ he stated.

Alphege Bell, who was the primary ever barrister to look in court docket with dreadlocks, advised there ought to be a legislation that recognises the influence sporting the wigs can have on black barristers. 

He cited the Create a Respectful and Open Office for Pure Hair Act, which was handed in California in 2019 to outlaw race-related coiffure discrimination.

‘It is about seeing how processes and practices within the office have an hostile impact on these with non-traditional hairstyles, and giving them safety and luxury, to allow them to really feel proud and assured that they will not be subjected to hostile therapy due to the looks of their hair,’ he stated.

Mr Bell added that if the courts need folks from various backgrounds to change into barristers, ‘ought to we make changes to make sure that our processes and custom do not adversely have an effect on them?’

In an interview with the Instances final 12 months, he stated being a barrister ‘should not be about how your hair falls.’ 

He stated: ‘We should not reside in worry as a result of our hair is not a sure manner. 

‘This job ought to be about mental excellence and skill; it should not be about how your hair falls. 

‘The configuration of your hair does not add to the energy of your argument.’ 

In the meantime household legislation barrister Yaa Dankwa Ampadu-Sackey,  who wears her hair in braids, tweeted that the normal wigs had been ‘not all the time appropriate’ together with her coiffure and will make her really feel uncomfortable, doubtlessly affecting her efficiency in court docket.

One other feminine barrister, utilizing the Twitter title KingTriiciia, posted: ‘Till we deal with the deeply rooted anti-blackness on the Bar, nothing will change. 

‘All of the talks, inclusive and equality tasks imply nothing when the basis is rotten.’    


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