A magistrate has published on his blog what he says are new guidelines from the Judicial Office that place strict limitations on what members of the judiciary of England and Wales can write in blogs and on Twitter.
The leaked document, which is posted in full below, was apparently issued on Thursday by email on behalf of Lord Justice Goldring. It states that blogging judges and magistrates "must not identify themselves as members of the judiciary" and must "avoid expressing opinions which...could damage public confidence in their own impartiality or in the judiciary in general" – even if they do so anonymously.
It adds: "Judicial office holders who maintain blogs must adhere to this guidance and should remove any existing content which conflicts with it forthwith. Failure to do so could ultimately result in disciplinary action."
On this comment thread of The Magistrate's Blog, other magistrates have expressed their dissatisfaction at the new guidelines, which they say they have also received.
Here's the document in full:
Blogging by Judicial Office Holders
This guidance is issued on behalf of the Senior Presiding Judge and the Senior President of Tribunals. It applies to all courts and tribunal judicial office holders in England and Wales, and is effective immediately.
A “blog” (derived from the term “web log”) is a personal journal published on the internet. “Blogging” describes the maintaining of, or adding content to, a blog. Blogs tend to be interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments. They may also contain links to other blogs and websites. For the purpose of this guidance blogging includes publishing material on micro-blogging sites such as Twitter.
Judicial office holders should be acutely aware of the need to conduct themselves, both in and out of court, in such a way as to maintain public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary.
Blogging by members of the judiciary is not prohibited. However, officer holders who blog (or who post comments on other people’s blogs) must not identify themselves as members of the judiciary. They must also avoid expressing opinions which, were it to become known that they hold judicial office, could damage public confidence in their own impartiality or in the judiciary in general.
The above guidance also applies to blogs which purport to be anonymous. This is because it is impossible for somebody who blogs anonymously to guarantee that his or her identity cannot be discovered.
Judicial office holders who maintain blogs must adhere to this guidance and should remove any existing content which conflicts with it forthwith. Failure to do so could ultimately result in disciplinary action. It is also recommended that all judicial office holders familiarise themselves with the new IT and Information Security Guidance which will be available shortly.
Any queries about this guidance should be directed to [name removed] at Judicial Office – Tel: 0207 [removed] Email: [removed].