Top black judge who said ‘racism is alive and well’ among the judiciary is reprimanded over ‘inappropriate’ comments

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By Thomas Connelly on

Peter Hebert gave a public speech following Tower Hamlets electoral fraud scandal

A leading black judge who said “racism is alive and well” in the judiciary during a public rally in London has been reprimanded by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO).

Judge Peter Herbert gave a public speech in 2015 slamming the Election Commissioner’s decision to void Lutfur Rahman’s Tower Hamlets mayoral victory. Addressing onlookers, the part-time recorder and employment tribunal judge said:

Racism is alive and well and living in Tower Hamlets, in Westminster and, yes, sometimes in the judiciary.

Rahman, a solicitor specialising in family law, was accused of “corrupt and illegal practices” during his 2014 re-election campaign for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets.

After a ten-week inquiry which concluded in April 2015, Rahman — who was Britain’s first elected Muslim mayor — was barred from holding public office for five years. He is currently subject to separate disciplinary proceedings brought by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

The JCIO has now taken action against Herbert, who is also a barrister, political activist and chair of the Society of Black Lawyers. In a statement published on its website, the watchdog said that his comments were: “inappropriate and put the reputation of the judiciary at risk, which amounted to misconduct.” Continuing, it said:

The Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor agreed. The Lord Chief Justice has written to Mr Herbert with formal advice regarding his future conduct as a fee-paid judge.

But Herbert isn’t taking the slap on the wrist quietly.

According to The Guardian, Herbert — who once prompted outspoken columnist Katie Hopkins to announce she was setting up a “White Lawyers” society — has written to the Lord Chief Justice this week. In a scathing letter, he said:

I fundamentally disagree that what I said posed any risk to the reputation of the judiciary. On the contrary your decision and that of the minister herself, coupled with the actions of the panel combine to leave me in no doubt this is an example of direct race discrimination and victimisation.

Last year we reported that Herbert was bringing a claim for discrimination against the Ministry of Justice following the JCIO’s decision to take disciplinary action against him. Legal Cheek understands that his case is yet to be heard.

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