Barrister accuses Bristol Uni of ‘unlawful discrimination’ for revoking guest speaker invite

The university thought her ‘gender critical’ opinions would cause a disturbance with her presence


Sarah Phillimore, a family lawyer, has claimed she was uninvited from her appearance at Bristol University last month due to her “protected views on gender identity” which created a “high” risk for public disorder.

Sarah, who was set to deliver a speech regarding issues of disability at the Bar, was shocked to hear she had been uninvited from speaking to current law students.

She was originally invited to speak by the Bristol Uni Bar Society, but the visit was cancelled due to “insufficient time to mobilise an appropriate security presence”, according to an email from the SU acquired through the Data Protection Act.

The Bristol Students’ Union stated that Sarah gave only 10 days’ notice of attendance, instead of the usually required 21. In an email from the SU, which she shared on X, it said the “Security Services considered the inflation and determined that unfortunately there was insufficient time to mobilise an appropriate security presence.”

Speaking to The Bristol Tab, Sarah said: “I will continue to find it absolutely shocking that a university of all places cannot tolerate diversity of political thought and relies on threats of violence to shut down any challenge or disagreement.

“This is by far a more significant disability for students than my physical disability ever was or ever will be.”

She went on to add: “I consider Bristol Uni in breach of its statutory obligations here towards freedom of speech as well as unlawful discrimination against me for my protected political speech and I will be taking it further.”

Sarah said this was “especially infuriating as I was invited to talk about issues regarding disability at the Bar!! But because they don’t like some other views I have, I may not talk about being disabled?”

Sarah went so far as to say the actions of the university constituted “unlawful fettering of free speech, not just discrimination, and that’s particularly serious for a university.”

Bristol SU Spokesperson said: “We are committed to upholding Freedom of Speech and we support our student groups to invite a wide range of speakers onto our campus.

“Any external speaker events are considered in accordance with the shared External Speakers Process which includes clear timescales to allow appropriate risk assessments to take place. The process can be found here.

“On this occasion our risk assessment, which included comparison to previous similar events, was that the event required security to ensure the safety of all involved.  With only ten days’ notice given, the University wasn’t able to arrange sufficient security in time, and therefore the student group were advised to postpone the event to a later date.”

The University of Bristol and Bristol University Bar Society have been approached for comment.

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Cover image credit @SVPhillimore via X.