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Diasporian News of Sunday, 24 April 2005


Lawyer Disbarred For Insulting Ghanaian Solicitor

An Oxford-educated lawyer has become the first barrister to be disbarred for racism after he called a senior black solicitor a 'nigger' and suggested he returned to Ghana.

Joseph Sykes made his comments in a letter to a London solicitor, Philip Glah, who had instructed him in an employment law case. In a disagreement between them over ?16,000 Mr Sykes had owed Mr Glah but had refused to pay, Mr Sykes called him a 'nigger'.

In the worst ever case of racial abuse at the Bar, a disciplinary tribunal of the four ancient Inns of Court found Mr Sykes guilty of racism and conduct discreditable to a barrister.

The chairman of the tribunal, Judge Crawford Lindsay QC, in a decision published in the Law Society Gazette this week, found Mr Sykes's conduct of the dispute with Mr Glah had showed lack of judgement and was evidence of a 'racist manner'. The full ruling has been sent to Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, and Ken Macdonald QC, the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In response to the ruling, Courtenay Griffiths QC, the chairman of the Bar's public affairs committee and one of Britain's leading black barristers, said: 'It is absolutely appalling that in the 21st century anyone could treat a fellow professional in that way.'

Mr Sykes, who was called to the Bar in 2001, defended himself at the hearing and called three black solicitors to testify he was not a racist. The men, who described themselves as being of African origin, told the tribunal there had never been any 'racial tension or problems' between themselves and Mr Sykes or between Mr Sykes and any of their mostly black clients.

But in December, Mr Sykes's appeal was dismissed and his sentence upheld. Publishing the sentence, the tribunal said the four charges of professional misconduct would come into force from 16 March this year. Mr Sykes was a member of Gray's Inn and an Oxford MA. Mr Glah is one of two partners at his firm Philip Glah and Co.

Mr Glah told The Independent after the judgment was published: 'I am happy with the outcome. I tried to resolve the matter with him and his head of chambers but Sykes wasn't interested. All I wanted was a simple apology but he refused. So, reluctantly, I had to take it further.'