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Judge falls asleep TWICE during trial

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Verdict overturned on appeal after employment specialist nods off during cross-examination

For a judge to nod off once during a trial may be regarded as a misfortune, but to do it twice looks like carelessness. Appeal judges have overturned an employment tribunal verdict after finding that the judge “very unfortunately” fell asleep at two points during the hearing.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal found that Judge Stewart “fell fully asleep not once but twice” while the claimant was being cross-examined — rendering the judgment in her favour null and void.

The incident took place in March 2018 during the hearing of a victimisation claim against the Science Museum Group. The claimant had given her evidence and was being cross-examined by Tim Sheppard of No5 Chambers. Sheppard’s instructing solicitor described what happened next:

“At around 3.00 PM, I noticed employment Judge Stewart’s hands slide off the desk in front of him. At the same time, his head slumped and his eyes were closed. He stopped taking a note of the exchange between Mr Sheppard and the Claimant and had stopped engaging with the documentation in front of him. He appeared to lose consciousness entirely.”

The judge regained consciousness after a minute or two — but returned to the land of Nod half an hour later. Sheppard told the appeal tribunal how he tried to jolt the exhausted jurist awake:

“On the second occasion, which was at approximately 3.30PM, I raised my voice and banged my cup on the table a few times in order to command employment Judge Stewart’s attention. I then stated “Sir” on a few occasions, at which point Judge Stewart visibly regained consciousness and composure.”

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Stewart told the appeal tribunal that he didn’t recall falling asleep, but admitted that “the absence of such a memory does nothing to rebut the allegation”. The claimant’s husband, however, didn’t think the judge had been asleep, but rather had adopted “what [could] be called a meditative posture”.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal found, on the balance of probabilities, that Stewart had indeed been asleep. Allowing the appeal, Judge Auerbach said:

“I find as a fact that, very unfortunately, on the afternoon of day one, 27 March 2018, during the course of the claimant’s cross-examination, the judge fell fully asleep not once but twice, on each occasion more than just momentarily, and on the second occasion to the point where Mr Sheppard had to deliberately make a noise more than once, physically and verbally, in order to alert the judge.”

While the panel’s decision had been unanimous, Auerbach found that “the fair-minded and informed observer would conclude that there was, at least, a real possibility that the fairness of the trial was affected”. The case will now be re-heard — must likely before a different judge.

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35 Comments

Lazareth

Pretty funny lol. To be fair, if I had to sit and listen to boring lawyers all day I would probably doze off a few times too.

Anonymous

I’m not surprised. Employment law is about as boring as it gets.

Anonymous

You should know, prick.

Anonymous

What? Why does having an opinion about employment law being tedious make the poster (who wasn’t me) a prick?

To be honest, with the exception of the law on trade unions and industrial action, employment and labour law is boring. Not as boring as low level PI but still boring.

Anonymous

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Against imperialism! Open door immigration!

Raise the minimum wage now!

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FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW

Anonymous

You’re still a virgin aren’t you?

Anonymous

Unlike your mum

Anonymous

Poor. By virtue of the fact that Mum is Mum, one would imagine she is not a virgin.

A+

Realist

Not a chance. Corbin cannot face up to people. Loves a microphone to hear his pathetic ramblings.

OB

ReAlIsT… At least spell his name correctly if you are going to issue a pointless slur,

Anonymous

I remember one turning up at court one morning & security explained to a Judge that she couldn’t take her unopened half bottle of gin in, that was in her handbag. She explained it was there due to her forgetting she’d put it there prior to going to a party. She was told she could not brng it into the building. They then watched on the court cctv as she walked up the road, drank it outside the court car Park & dumped it in a bin outside the back of a pub, before returning to court to sit as an employment Judge

Anonymous

”I remember one turning…” one what? Or are you the one who turned up, and are very posh?

Anonymous

One specimen

Anonymous

This is simply untrue. No judge gets searched by security – one of the few perks.

Anonymous

And they don’t check bags in the employment tribunal…

Anonymous

One does not simply waste Gin, or any other liquor

Anonymous

Spill a drop for our homies not around no longer

Anonymous

I reject this account.

Anonymous

Very poor form, I appreciate that judges have a heavy workload etc. etc., but when they are conducting hearings, especially at tribunal level:

they start between 10-10:30,
break around 11:30 briefly,
take one hour for lunch between 1-2,
resume at 2,
break at 3,
then finish by 4.30.

There is literally no excuse.

Anonymous

Judges do important and challenging work. Unlike you, they are not just churning papers/hours.

Anonymous

Exactly, and they have a structure that enables them to do their important and challenging work, there is therefore no excuse for a Judge to fall asleep.

Anonymous

Judges do work outside those hours too…

Anonymous

Not during a multi-day hearing they don’t, unless there is a break of at least one half day.

Anonymous

You clearly have never sat as a judge!

Realist

No excuse. If this was counsel or solicitor they would be up before the pathetic regulators. Chuck the judge out clearly does not want to be there other than to collect a monthly pay

Anonymous

If you really imagine that judges start work at 10 and finish at 4:00 you really do need to get some more experience of court life.

Chichi

What !!!

Anonymous

Obviously the judge shouldn’t have fallen asleep but the appeal ought not have been allowed because that issue could have been addressed immediately during the trial. Such a waste of money to continue with the trial as either side is likely to appeal on that basis.

Anonymous

Agreed, a number of ‘tactical’ reasons for such an approach though!

Scep Tick

“I find as a fact that, very unfortunately, on the afternoon of day one, 27 March 2018, during the course of the claimant’s cross-examination, the judge fell fully asleep not once but twice, on each occasion more than just momentarily,”

First time the judge fell asleep:

“The judge regained consciousness after a minute or two”

Given the definition of a moment is 90 seconds, then the first time at least WAS momentarily. Not “more than just momentarily”.

Anonymous

And he probably gets his 8 hours a night too – unlike the poor fvcking barristers going to court off 5 hours kip.

Sleepyhead

I sympathise with the judge. Any parent with very young children who has been up repeatedly during the night will be familiar with the issue. I remember being led in the Court of Appeal once when I spent a whole afternoon fighting to keep my eyes open and to appear engaged in the matter. If I had been lying down, I would have been instantly unconscious.

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