Supreme Court victory for practising barrister–Mark Anderson QC and S Chelvan instructed –O’Connor v BSB [2017] UKSC 78

Wed, 06 Dec 2017

Today’s landmark judgment in O’Connor v Bar Standards Board, heralds a victory for a practising barrister, Ms Portia O’Connor.

Ms O’Connor is claiming damages against the Bar Standards Board (the BSB) alleging discrimination against her on grounds of race, contrary to Articles 6 and 14 of the ECHR and section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998, in bringing disciplinary proceedings which ended in her acquittal on appeal in August 2012 before the Visitors Panel.

The respondent successfully argued before a Deputy Master in March 2014, the High Court in December 2014 and a 3 panel Court of Appeal presided by the former Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, that the claim for damages, lodged in February 2013, was out of time. 

The BSB argued that the act complained of started to run when the Disciplinary Charges had found the charges against the claimant proved on 23 May 2011, therefore expiring prior to the 2013 damages claim was lodged.  Section 7 (5) (a) of the 1998 Human Rights Act provides a limitation period of one year beginning with the date on which the act complained of took place. The question   before the Supreme Court was whether ‘the disciplinary proceedings brought by the BSB, a series of discrete acts or a single continuing act for the purposes of section 6 (1) of the 1998 Act’.

No5 Barristers’ Chambers, Mark Anderson QC, leading S Chelvan acting for the appellant (neither appearing below) successfully argued before the Supreme Court that the acts complained of was in fact a single, continuous course of conduct: ‘the initiation and pursuit of the proceedings to their conclusion i.e. the entirety of the course of conduct as opposed to any component steps’.

Lord Lloyd, in giving the unanimous judgment, agreed with the appellant’s case, and said the decisions of the lower Courts against Ms O’Connor would result in claimants being “placed in a difficult position of having to bring some human rights claim within one year of the commencement of what might be lengthy proceedings, without knowing the outcome which might be very material to the claim.” 

Speaking about today’s result, Ms. O’Connor has commented:

“I am very pleased with the result. I have always used No5 Barristers' Chambers on Commercial and Civil matters, Mark Anderson QC is the Barrister my firm goes to for everything that is fiendishly complex.

When I decided that it might be a good idea to change my representative for the Supreme Court appeal, I decided to approach Mark Anderson QC.  I hoped he would accept the case but I was concerned that he might say it was not his area of the law. 

I sent Mark the main papers and spoke to him after he after he had read them.  He said "what an interesting case, it is such a pity that you are at the centre of it. Would you like me to recommend someone in chambers for you"

I informed him that I would like him to do it.  He said it would be an honour but that he would need a junior.  He said he could think of a number of juniors but S Chelvan came immediately to mind for it. 

No5 sent me a list of Juniors but choosing Chelvan was easy, I had not met him before but I had heard of him.

It was the most stressful period of life but my legal team was brilliant. They were patient, thorough and treated me as their client but respected my position as follow member of the Bar.

Thank you very much for acting for me and for your patience.”

Link to video footage of the handing down of the judgment in Supreme Court this morning.

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