Law harassment survey

Most criminal lawyers have experienced or seen bullying or harassment in the profession, and the majority of offenders are judges.

RNZ:  Judges worst offenders in law harassment survey

Criminal Bar Association vice-president Elizabeth Hall, who instigated the survey, said the “staggering” results were “obviously of deep concern to both the association and the Law Society”.

Types of abuse include shouting, insults and threats, and nearly one in three had experienced unwelcome sexual attention.

In nearly 65 percent of cases, the person doing the harassing or bullying was a judge.

Fewer than 17 percent of respondents made an official complaint – mainly because they believed it would not make any difference and they were afraid of the repercussions.

Of those who did complain, just 6 percent felt this fixed the problem.

  • Of the 283 respondents (181 women, 102 men), about 60 percent had been in practice more than nine years
  • 88.1 percent had personally experienced or witnessed bullying or harassment in the last four years
  • Most commonly type of bullying:
    – mockery 69.2%
    -invalid criticism 60%
    – shouting 58%
    – bullying based on age/ experience 57%
    – personal insults 45%
    – unwelcome sexual attention 28.5%
    – threats 27.3%
  • Effect of the bullying/harassment: stress, loss of confidence, anxiety, fear, moved jobs

The law profession was not alone in having with problems with harassment or abuse, Ms Hall said.

“But what is unique to the sphere of criminal practice is this very entrenched hierarchical structure governed by people who have come up through this system in which you go down to court and have strips torn off you by the judge or opposing council, you patch yourself up and do it again the next day.

“That was the practice 20 or 30 years ago – but times have changed, people have moved on and that sort of thing is no longer acceptable.”