A leading female barrister, Dinah Rose QC, has come under fire for defending the government of the Cayman Islands in a case over same-sex marriage.
Rose, who is also president of Magdalen College, Oxford, has been subjected to concerted abuse on and off social media from activists who are putting pressure on her to drop her client.
LGBT activists have also written to the college demanding that she resign as president unless she donates her fees to protecting the rights of gay people in the Caymans.
The case – Day and another (Appellants) v The Government of the Cayman Islands and another (Respondents) (Cayman Islands) – is now at the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (JCPC).
Chantelle Day and Vickie Bodden Bush, a same-sex couple, wanted to marry in the Cayman Islands. In 2018, the Deputy Registrar refused their application for the appropriate marriage licence on the basis that the Marriage Law of the Cayman Islands defined marriage as ‘the union between a man and a woman as husband and wife’.
The couple applied to the Grand Court of the Cayman Islands for a declaration that the Marriage Law does not conform to the Bill of Rights, which forms part of the constitution of the Cayman Islands. They contested the law should be modified accordingly.
The Grand Court found in their favour, but the Court of Appeal of the Cayman Islands decided the Bill of Rights does not guarantee same-sex couples the right to marry. The case has now been taken to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.
Rose has said she will not step back from representing the Cayman government, stating that a barrister’s defence of a client should not be conflated with agreement of the client’s views.
It should be evident that a barrister defending a murderer is not a murderer; nor should a barrister defending what one critic has called a ‘homophobic case’ be accused of being homophobic or forced off the case because of activist pressure.
As reported in the Law Gazette, which listed a host of legal experts rallying round Rose – including the barrister for the prosecution in this case – Rose claimed it would be ‘an act of serious professional misconduct’ to withdraw from a case because of external pressure.
In a statement, she said, ‘It is a vital component of the administration of justice and the rule of law that barristers should not be identified with the views or positions of their clients.
‘Otherwise, barristers who are instructed in controversial cases may be subject to abuse and harassment, and deterred from taking them on.’