BNP barrister ignites debate among law students

The news that Birmingham set St Philips Chambers has distanced itself from former barrister Roger Grierson, who is to fight a seat for the British National Party (BNP) at the general election, has sparked a heated debate among Midlands-based law students.

Bar Vocational Course student and former president of Birmingham law Society Chris Snell said: “I can see why they’ve done it because it’s potentially going to reflect badly on the chambers. It boils down to money and people would think twice about instructing a chambers that has links to the BNP.”

Tax specialist Grierson, who was a door tenant at the set, resigned last Thursday (TheLawyer.com, 25 March) after it emerged that he was to stand for the BNP at the general election.

While political belief is protected by the Bar Council’s equality and diversity code, Birmingham University’s law society president Joe Hewton said the line becomes blurred when the political views are extreme.

“Birmingham is a culturally diverse city and of course the links with the BNP could have impacted very badly on the chambers so I think St Phillips did the right thing by distancing itself from the situation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Nottingham Law Society president Clare Freshwater said that the legal system and politics should be completely separate and all barristers and solicitors should display impartiality when it comes to work.

She said: “The fact that we live in a democracy dictates that you should be able to follow any established political party as long as your views don’t create a conflict of interest at work. He [Grierson] and the chambers obviously felt that it would.”

Elsewhere, Keele University’s law society president Katie Butterfield said: “It’s a difficult ethical question because where do you draw the line? It would be a very bad situation if the country started to censor people but I think St Phillips was right to distance itself from a party with such extreme views like the BNP.”