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Disability Discrimination - Applicants for Pupillage

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The Court of Appeal has handed down its decision in 1 Pump Court Chambers v Horton, upholding (by a majority) the decision of the EAT.

Mr Horton had been offered a pupillage at a set of barristers' chambers but, because of ill-health (which qualified as a disability), asked for his pupillage to be deferred for a year. The Chambers decided not to grant him a deferral, and the employment tribunal found this decision prevented him from taking a pupillage with the Chambers.

The issue for the Court of Appeal was whether an applicant for pupillage was an applicant for "membership of [a trade organisation]" within the meaning of s13 of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. It was common ground that a set of Chambers was a 'trade organisation' for this purpose: hence, the issue was whether an application for pupillage was an application for membership of Chambers.

The majority of the Court of Appeal (Peter Gibson and Jonathan Parker LJJ) held that pupils are not members of Chambers within the meaning of s13, and therefore an application for pupillage was not an application for membership. Accordingly Mr Horton was not entitled to the protection of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995.

Giving a dissenting judgment, Laddie J. stated that pupils make use of Chambers' facilities (such as telephones, post, computer and library facilities), have briefs provided by the clerks during the second-six months, are insured under their pupilmasters insurance policies and may have to pay a contribution to Chambers expenses on monies received for briefs. This was enough to make a pupil a member of Chambers for the purpose of s13 of the DDA, even if the pupil was not a 'full' member and did not have 'equal status' with tenants.

Permission has been granted to appeal to the House of Lords.