University law society disbands after row over racist messages

University law society disbands after row over racist messages

December 14, 2018

University law society disbands after row over students who swapped vile racist messages in private WhatsApp group

  • University of Exeter’s Bracton Law Society has been disbanded after probe
  • Messages included racist terms, the phrase ‘dirty Arabs’ and slavery references 
  • A number of students were expelled and suspended when messages emerged
  • Now a review has determined society ‘fell short’ of ‘standards and values 

A prestigious law society has been forced to disband after a university investigation into extreme racist conversations in a private chat group.

The sick WhatsApp messages were allegedly sent among members of Bracton Law Society at the University of Exeter earlier this year. 

The messages are alleged to have been sent by students including Matthew Bell, Ash Chandraharan, Alex Crawford, James Cranstone and Bailey Grant, who are all members of the law society.  

But a university review into the messages, which were exposed in March, determined that the society ‘fell short’ of the ‘standards and values’ of the guild and should be ‘disbanded.’ 

The messages were allegedly shared among members of the Bracton law sociey at Exeter

The messages were shared in a WhatsApp group for law society members and featured racist comments under a picture of London Mayor Sadiq Khan

The messages included racist terms, the phrases ‘dirty Arabs’, said ‘if you aint English goes home’ and referenced a stabbing which should have gone further.

They also made positive references to slavery and gang rape and in one message they posted a picture of London Mayor Sadiq Khan posing at Spurs’ White Hart Lane stadium in January this year with the messages ‘I’m disgusted’ and ‘browns don’t get it’.    

A University of Exeter spokesperson said: ‘After an incident involving students from the Bracton Law Society earlier this year, the university launched a major investigation that determined individual sanctions on those involved – this included expulsions, suspensions, and other significant penalties.

‘Subsequently, the Students’ Guild and the university conducted a broader formal joint review of the Society and its operations.

Student Arsalan Motavali played a leading role in exposing the ‘racism that I’ve experienced’ at the university. Exeter did not say which students had been expelled or suspended

Mr Motavali then took screenshots of the messages before posting them on Facebook, where they have been shared hundreds of thousands of times


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‘The review board determined that the conduct of the Society fell short of the standards and values of the University and Students’ Guild, and should, therefore, be disbanded.’ 

Months later it emerged that some of them were expelled, suspended or received ‘significant sanctions’ from the university.

A law firm also rescinded an offer of employment to one of the students involved, Matthew Bell. 

He is the only one of the men involved to apologise for his messages, according to The Tab.

Bell’s messages on the group chat included: ‘Browns don’t get it’, ‘He’s such a stupid little a*** licking p**i’ and ‘Being chased by a n****r is every man’s worst nightmare.’

The WhatsApp exchanges include references to ‘sending black people home’, use of the most racist pejorative terms, the phrases ‘dirty Arabs’ and ‘if you aint English goes home’ and references a stabbing which the messages say should have gone further

He said: ‘I will not attempt to excuse and deny any of the statements I have made. The comments, which I shall not repeat, are inexcusable and undeniably wrong.

‘I would like to make it publicly known that I do not honestly believe any of the things I have said.’

The elected pro-bono officer of the Bracton Law Society, Alex Crawford, said in one message that ‘you only need to go as far as Mauritania to get slaves’.

Co-captain of the society’s football team Ash Chandraharan, who was also running to be the society’s general secretary wrote that he would ‘lead the charge against his own colour’.

Former Waitrose worker James Cranstone, a second year Law student, told the group: ‘Guess who got a placement n***a sluts’.

Hill Dickinson LLP law firm – where Matthew Bell was due to start work – confirmed revoked his offer of employment in light of the slurs

And first year Bailey Grant said: ‘This is why we need a race war. Sorry Ash, sacrifices have to be made, nothing personal.’

He was a tutor at Explore Learning and a Secretary at EC Obstetric Legal & Training Limited. He went to Sutton Grammar School for Boys before going to study Law at Exeter.

James Cranstone, second year Law student, told the group, ‘guess who got a placement n***a sluts.’ 

Student Arsalan Motavali played a leading role in exposing the ‘racism that I’ve experienced’ at the university having published many of the messages online.

After the messages (pictured) went public ‘the review board determined that the conduct of the Society fell short of the standards and values of the University and Students’ Guild, and should, therefore, be disbanded’

He said he initially created the chat group in 2017 but was removed as admin as it was taken over by other students.

Mr Motavali then took screenshots of the messages before posting them on Facebook, where they have been shared hundreds of thousands of times.

He said at the time: ‘All of the screenshots need no explanation.

‘I refuse to stand by and let such people who speak in these terms go on to recruit at future law firms or be part of University culture, whilst cowering behind their phones and talking like this about people that are part of the society they represent.

‘If you’re going to be a racist be a racist, but just be prepared to face the consequences that come with being such a person.’

In a statement yesterday, Bracton Law Society president Lily Hayes said more had been done to make the society inclusive.

She said: ‘As president, I would like to state that I am incredibly proud of all the work that we have done this term in promoting diversity and making all law students feel welcome in the wider community.

‘This year’s committee is the first committee to introduce events with other societies such as ACS and Women and Law, as well improving accessibility to existing events by having all applications to be reviewed anonymously.

‘Whilst this isn’t the end, at this point, I would like to thank on behalf of this year’s committee all of our members who have supported us this term.

‘We will be looking to the future and are determined to support all those continuing in their legal careers both within BLS and the new law society that will emerge.’

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