Lord Lester and me

I am sorry to disappoint those avid for scandal but, for the life of me, I cannot recall any improper conduct by Lord Lester towards me on the – admittedly rare – occasions I met him.  I recall him as part of the human rights circuit, which was becoming increasingly influential in the 1990s.

At the time I was a member of the Bar Council, and a founder-member and Committee member of the new Association of Women Barristers. I had a particular interest in women’s reproductive autonomy, a subject then deemed so off-limits that the influential law reform group Justice (of which I became a Council member) was unwilling to dip its toe into such choppy waters.  

At the time, Lester was very much a benevolent elder statesman of the equality industry. He had pioneered statutes prohibiting race and sex discrimination into English law, and was very well respected for his commitment to human rights.

I recall meeting him at a debate at the Cambridge University Union. What the debate was about, I now have no recollection, though I have a vague idea that he was on the opposing side. The Union organisers kindly gave the speakers supper beforehand. I wore a dark green velvet Paddy Campbell ensemble, for those of you interested in fashion. 

The only thing I remember about the debate was an intervention “on a point of order” by a rather annoying person (as I thought at the time), who later became a pupil of mine, and went on to become a tenant in Doughty Street Chambers. Afterwards, Lester offered me to drive me back to London, and I gladly accepted. 

We chatted away throughout the journey. He was charming. I cannot say if the car was an automatic or not (as a non-driver, such details would have meant nothing to me), but I can confidently confirm that at no stage did Lester’s left hand make any contact with me. 

At the time, I was in a rather smart European law set. It seems that Lester was on the lookout for talent to recruit to his chambers, which had some very able women, and sometime later we arranged to meet for lunch in a restaurant in Chancery Lane. 

We had a perfectly pleasant time, although he jibbed a bit after asking me what I earned, and I told him. He looked thoughtful and said: “It’s not as much as [name redacted]”, who was then a rising star in his chambers – and also a Paddy Campbell fan.

[name redacted] is now an eminent QC. She did a report into sexual harassment for the BBC post-Savile, and is said to have treated sympathetically a report by [name also redacted] who subsequently – and successfully – accused Dave Lee Travis.

I ca’n’t possibly comment on the recent accusations against Lord Lester, but I would have thought that if he had the slightest propensity to harass women, those very able women in his chambers would have got wind of it, and done something about it, a long time ago.

That is all I can say.