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High Court judge falls asleep on the job

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Slap on the wrist for Mrs Justice Parker after she ‘momentarily’ dozed off during a hearing

A High Court judge has been issued with formal advice on her conduct after falling asleep during a hearing.

Mrs Justice Parker, a family division judge, dozed off “momentarily” in the course of an unknown case last year.

A spokesperson from the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office said: “Mrs Justice Parker has been issued with formal advice following a complaint by parties in a case that she had fallen asleep during a hearing. While concluding that this amounted to conduct which had the potential to undermine public confidence the judiciary, the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice took into consideration that the judge fell asleep only momentarily and has expressed remorse for doing so.”

Parker, 68, became a High Court judge in 2008, making her the second most experienced in the family division. An Oxford graduate, she practised family law at specialist chambers 1KBW before becoming a judge, and according to Family Law Week was a respected lecturer in child law.

The lapse does not appear to be as serious as the case of Philip Cattan, who fell asleep during cross-examination in a 2014 rape trial. The JCIO said that Cattan had been guilty of “serious misconduct” and issued him with a reprimand.

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But the courts have said that judges falling asleep during criminal cases does not necessarily make the verdict unsafe. In 2001, the judge presiding over the trial of a gang charged with an attempted jewel heist at the Millennium Dome zonked out “for part of the speeches and some of the evidence”, the UK Criminal Law Blog reports. The Court of Appeal pointed out that “no judge ought, in any circumstances, to fall asleep during any stage of a criminal trial”. But just because “a judge falls asleep… it does not necessarily follow that the trial is unfair, or that any ensuing conviction is unsafe. It is the effect, not the fact, of such inattention which is crucial”.

According to a 2007 scientific paper published in the journal Sleep, “judicial sleepiness is not uncommon“. The authors, both medical doctors, noted that judges nodding off “is viewed negatively by the media, community, and judicial system” and recommended “active monitoring of the judiciary for sleepiness and sleep disorders”.

Legal Cheek has approached the JCIO for comment.

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30 Comments

Anonymous

I’ve seen this happen. I was on an appeal in front of a former DCJ of Liverpool, when he gave every outward appearance of waking up. Counsel dealt with it well. ‘Your honour, I appear to have lost my path somewhat. Might I have the Court’s indulgence in going back a short distance and remounting?’

(65)(4)

Anonymurmur

A perfect example of why barristers reign supreme over the legal landscape…

(26)(3)

Anonymous

I’m not going to name either of them, but it was my chap who was on his feet at the time. He’s a classy operator, unlike his oppo, who would probably have been likely to have responded with something like ‘Oi! How dare you sleep when you could be listening to my apocalyptically bad-tempered arguments?’

(11)(2)

Anonymous

“My chap who was on his feet at the time”?

Were you a defendant?

(11)(0)

Anonymous

No. I was representing a claimant/appellant.

Anonymous

You sat behind counsel and did some paper pushing. Get it right.

Winchester

That’s nothing.. there’s a farting magistrate at Staines Mags.

Parps like a trumpet and pretends nothing’s happened.

Whiffy ones at that.

(24)(2)

Anonymous

The Magistrate in question has a stoma bag as a result of ulcerative colitis.

Shame on you for mocking a disability.

(22)(4)

Tim

Do you know what a stoma is?

Do you know what ulcerative colitis is?

To equate either with anal-fetish shows astonishing ignorance.

Any other disabilities that you would like to banish from the bench?

I’m sure Hitler would have loved to have you on his diversity team!

(1)(1)

Anonymous

No matter how much you white knight the old goat, he’s not gonna let you pump his stoma bag 😂

(1)(2)

Tim

You need serious help.

Care to name yourself so you can stand by those comments before the SRA/BSB or your education provider?

Anonymous

I’d gladly do. But how are you planning to make me, crybaby snowflake?

Anonymous

Maybe he should consider euthanasia?

(1)(4)

Alan Slackbowels

I can’t control my arse either.

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Staines in his pants, no doubt.

(11)(1)

JDP

My trainees are aware that I will continue if they fall asleep on the job.

(11)(1)

Anonymous

What if they die on the job?

(4)(0)

Anonymous

I am dead inside after working there.

(2)(0)

Birkenhead Prime

My judges frequently fall asleep (or are otherwise absent from court). Doesn’t matter though, we’ll fill in the order papers for him!!

(6)(0)

Picko

Hi Seedy mate!

(1)(0)

Anonymous

I am currently having a sh*t and playing Football Manager. Not in the loos – I am literally at my desk. I am filth.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

Embarrassing! I’ve seen this too, in an arbitration.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Cite the case otherwise we will think you’re chatting shit.

(57)(2)

Lord Harley PHD CBE MBA GCSE

You cynic, you.

R (on the application of Coke-Wallis) v Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales

(3)(23)

Incontinent Alan

Are you. Sure it was Lord Philips?

Could it have been Lord Philips on?

(1)(0)

Lord Harley PHD CBE MBA GCSE

[2011] UKSC 1

It is the first judgment the Supreme Court gave.

(2)(0)

Floyd McGregor

Don’t be a bore.

(0)(1)

Lord Harley of Counsel

We have never had this in the Privy Arbital Court.

(2)(0)

Counsel of the Privy Arbital Court

No. There the judiciary are asleep throughout and the court-room furniture is simply a single bed and a commode!

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Genuinely been in the SC with 2/5 asleep. But not the beak writing the judgment, so push on.

(0)(16)

Comments are closed.

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