The Victorian Bar Council has announced that they had to access the email accounts of its barristers as part of their investigation into the production of a homophobic notice that was posted in a prominent law chamber in August 2022. The notice, which claimed to come from the bar and was written under its letterhead, stated that the committee was seeking new members, but “white, male heterosexuals” were not eligible to join.
The notice referred to a spoof “LGBTQMS” review committee, with the letters “MS” standing for “mud screwers”, which led the council to use software to search for the term “LGBTQMS” in an attempt to uncover the barrister who had posted the notice. A council employee reviewed the subject lines of the emails and one was opened and read. The search eventually uncovered the person responsible for the notice.
In a statement sent by the president of the Victorian bar, Sam Hay KC, the council reassured its members that such access would not occur again unless authorized by law. The council is reviewing its privacy and information management policies to ensure the electronic environments used by members are maintained in confidence and will only be interrogated under the compulsion or authorization of law. The terms and conditions regarding the use of email and privacy will also be reviewed and updated.