A SENIOR barrister has become embroiled in a racism row after calling a schoolgirl who was sent home from school because of her Afro hair a “stroppy teenager of colour”.
Lawyer Jon Holbrook blasted Ruby Williams, now 19, on Twitter after she was awarded an £8,500 discrimination payout following an Equality Act case against her school.
Ruby Williams, now 19, was awarded £8,500 after her school repeatedly sent her home because of her Afro hairCredit: Triangle News
Barrister Jon Holbrook has been blasted by lawyer colleagues for calling a schoolgirl awarded an £8,500 discrimination payout a ‘stroppy teenager of colour’Credit: Jon Holbrook Twitter
Ruby’s story was shared on Twitter by the Equality and Human Rights Commission before barrister Jon Holbrook criticised the Equality ActCredit: Jon Holbrook Twitter
The schoolgirl was sent home from Urswick Church of England School in Hackney, east London, four years ago because she had her hair in a natural Afro.
The school claimed this broke their school uniform policy.
Mr Holbook – who has been a barrister for 30 years – retweeted a video about the case by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, belittling the Equality Act.
He said: “The Equality Act undermines school discipline by empowering the stroppy teenager of colour.”
Ruby’s mum Kate Williams, 44, condemned the barrister and said her daughter was brave to have challenged the institutional racism that affected black students across the country.
“I think he [Holbrook] just saw my picture and decided to pick on her I suppose,” she told The Guardian.
“He knows nothing of her suffering. It went on for three and a half years before they changed the policy.”
He knows nothing of her suffering
The tweet attracted fury from other members of the legal profession, who blasted the barrister’s “shameful” and “pathetic” reaction.
Labour MP David Lammy, who is trained as a barrister, fumed: “What a pathetic response from a barrister.
“No one should be discriminated against because of their race, or because their hair is different.
“You shame the Bar and undermine your profession.”
Mum Kate Williams with daughter Ruby, who challenged ‘institutional racism’ in schoolsCredit: Triangle News
Politician David Lammy was among prominent figures to lambast Jon Holbrook in the race row over Ruby Williams’ discrimination caseCredit: David Lammy Twitter
David Turner QC said: “This is the most shameful tweet that I have ever seen from a barrister.
“I am so sorry Kate Williams – you and Ruby do not deserve this.”
Another barrister Becky Agates said: “I’ve sat here staring at the screen…unable to write.
“You’re a member of my profession, a profession I love and respect, yet you feel safe and comfortable tweeting something like this.
“What is wrong with you, apart from the obvious? Do the right thing, take it down.”
Mr Holbrook was twice asked to remove the post by his chambers, Cornerstone Barristers.
Philip Coppel QC and Tom Cosgrove QC, joint Cornerstone heads, said: “The heads of chambers learned of the tweet late on January 22.
“The heads of chambers have publicly repudiated the tweet and all that it insinuates. They reiterate that repudiation.
“Mr Holbrook was asked both on January 22 and again on January 23 to delete the tweet immediately and permanently.
“Mr Holbrook is refusing to do so. The Board of Cornerstone Barristers is dealing with the matter.
“To be clear: this matter is being taken very seriously. The contents of this tweet are contrary to the views of Cornerstone Barristers.
“We unequivocally condemn discrimination in all of its forms and are proud of our record as a diverse chambers which promotes social mobility at the Bar.”
In response, Mr Holbrook penned an article about the Equality Act for right-wing website The Conservative Woman.
He said: “The Equality Act of 2010 requires schools to make allowances to accommodate individual racial, religious or cultural beliefs.
“‘Quite right too’ say an army of right-thinking people who have been seduced by the word ‘equality’ without thinking about the impact of a law that treats people ‘unequally’ if they have a legally ‘protected characteristic’ such as race.”
Ruby’s mum added the negative tweet had caused the opposite from its intended effect, as it had “highlighted this awful form of discrimination again”.
“It’s a pleasant surprise that this has blown up, because the issue is still there,” she said.
“We’re very aware of how many other children are still facing this at UK schools.
“It allows to challenge and put pressure on UK schools as to when they will sort this out.
“By trying to say she was in the wrong… you’ve actually highlighted this awful form of discrimination again. The world is changing.”