In the Media

Barrister who refused to represent gay client reprimanded

PUBLISHED July 26, 2006

A barrister who refused to represent a gay client because of his deeply held Christian beliefs has been reprimanded for professional misconduct.

Mark Mullins was hauled before a disciplinary tribunal by the Bar Council after turning down the case of an illegal immigrant who wanted to use his homosexual relationship as grounds to stay in this country.

Mr Mullins, a committed Christian and regional chairman of the Lawyers' Christian Fellowship, believes accepting the case would have contradicted the teachings of his faith.

But the tribunal ruled that his refusal was in breach of the profession's 'cab rank rule' which states that lawyers are obliged to provide legal representation for clients assigned to them regardless of their personal beliefs.

Mr Mullins, 45, received a reprimand last week after being found guilty of professional misconduct. He was also ordered to pay ?1,000 towards the cost of the case.

He is considering appealing against the decision. Mr Mullins, who was called to the Bar in 1995, specialises in immigration, crime and asset forfeiture and confiscation.

Under the 'cab rank rule' lawyers are assigned cases on a rota system and are not allowed to pick and choose who they represent, regardless of the nature of the case or client.

Lawyers can refuse to represent clients under certain circumstances, such as when the client admits their guilt in private but still intends to plead not guilty or if the lawyer has been threatened with physical violence.

Mr Mullins, who lives in north London with his partner and children, was judged to have discriminated against his client - known only as Mr J - on the basis of his sexual orientation. Mr J is understood to have subsequently won his case to remain in the UK.

The Bar Council's findings, which were published yesterday, say that between June 26 and July 5, 2004, Mr Mullins refused to accept a brief to represent Mr J on the grounds it "involved Mr Mullins putting forward a case to assist Mr J to remain in the United Kingdom on the basis of his sexual relationship with his male partner."

Mr J's homosexual lifestyle was "unacceptable" to Mr Mullins and he therefore "ignored the rule that barristers must represent members of the public regardless of the nature of the case and any opinion they may have formed about the character or reputation of the client.

"Mr Mullins failed to comply with the cab-rank rule without justification allowed for under the rules.

"As such Mr Mullins discriminated against Mr J on the grounds of his sexual orientation."

Mr Mullins said yesterday that he was not prepared to discuss the outcome of the proceedings or his reasons for refusing to accept Mr J as a client.