As we challenge others, we must challenge ourselves

15 June 2020

On 2 June GCN expressed our solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and with victims of racist police and societal violence everywhere. GCN further denounced the racism and injustice that exist in the UK ‘justice system’ and joined with others doing the same.

Ian Macdonald QC, our founder, stood in solidarity with the black community all his life. He led trials which challenged racist injustices in housing, policing, prosecution and immigration decision making and unfair trial and prosecutorial procedures. As just one example, in the Mangrove Nine trial in 1970, he forced a begrudging judicial acknowledgment of ‘evidence of racial hatred’ in the police. Other members of chambers challenge oppression, discrimination and injustice in their own legal practices.

Change comes from within

As Mira Hammad powerfully explains, it is not enough for a predominantly white (and male) legal profession to hold others to account for racism and discrimination when the profession is guilty of it themselves. GCN is a predominantly white chambers, and has been since it was founded. We know this is one shortfall and that we need to carefully consider and identify others. We do not reflect the diverse backgrounds of our clients. We have not done enough to promote diversity in our own ranks, nor the profession at large. We have not sufficiently challenged our overt and unconscious biases. We have not adequately tackled our part in perpetuating an institutionally racist system.

While silence is not an option, neither is inaction. Now is the moment for GCN to pledge to do better and to be accountable through our deeds. These actions cannot be tokenistic.

As a chambers we have begun the process of investigating our shortcomings and challenging our assumptions. We are learning how to better make space for black and ethnic minority individuals. We invite all those who support us, instruct us and work with us to assist us in this process and hold us to account along the way.

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