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Judges to be trained on avoiding ‘inappropriate behaviour’, says Lord Chief Justice

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Follows reports of bullying, harassment and discrimination

The Lord Chief Justice has said that bespoke training will be provided to judges on how to avoid “inappropriate behaviour”, especially where it is inadvertent.

Lord Burnett of Maldon told the House of Commons Justice select committee that judges’ behaviour “can be can be corrosive even when people don’t fully appreciate it”.

Leadership judges, including all the presiding judges and other High Court leadership judges, as well as the resident judges in the Crown Court, the designated civil judges and the designated family judges and their equivalents in the tribunals, are to be the first to receive the training.

After this initial stage, Burnett plans to include the essentials of good behaviour and avoiding inappropriate behaviour in the induction and continuation training provided to all judges.

Last year, members of Women in Law, a networking organisation, noted a growing number of incidents of judges making advocates cry in court with the Bar Council recognising that there is “no doubt” that judicial bullying is a problem.

In the Lord Chief Justice’s Annual Report 2022, Burnett stated that he had asked the Judicial Office to commission qualitative work to determine the nature of any inappropriate behaviour within the judiciary as a response to the “limited number of reports received”.

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He told the select committee that alongside “many positive aspects of the existing culture […] there were also examples of behaviour that amounted to bullying, harassment or discrimination, as well as examples of behaviour that would not be classed as bullying but could nonetheless have had an adverse impact on those who experienced it”.

Burnett continued:

“We asked questions which we didn’t know the answer to — something as an advocate we were always taught not to do — but it was important to learn whether we had problems of the sort that other organisations have. I hope that they are fewer than in many other organisations but it would be folly to pretend that we don’t have some problems, and we are taking immediate steps to do what we can to mitigate those problems.”

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8 Comments

Graham

The consequence of the law becoming more complex with each passing day is that the pool of people who have the intellectual firepower to grapple with the material becomes smaller and smaller. Many of them simply do not have the appropriate character and temperament to deal with cases fairly.

Anon

And many don’t have the appropriate character and temperament not to shout, belittle or sexual harass their colleagues.

They don’t do this in front of paying clients. Abusive behaviour is always a choice and is unacceptable in a working environment.

Max Power

Nonsense. The law is not more complex, there is just more of it to look up, but that is the lawyers’ job not the judges’. Judges don’t have to look anything up, they decide on what is presented to them. The proliferation of specialist courts and rules also mean the judges are more acquainted with the legal framework of disputes before them than in the past. The intellectual demands of a judge are no more now than they were before and to say otherwise shows a lack of appreciation of the litigation system in England.

The pay and working conditions are much worse, and that does affect quality.

Archibald Pomp O'City

“The intellectual demands of a judge are no more now than they were before and to say otherwise shows a lack of appreciation of the litigation system in England.”

Are you intimating that some of our commentariats are not the seasoned legal professionals they purport to be?

Anonymous

Judges should look stuff up as well. As court users we expect them to have done their homework.

Jon

Aren’t temperament and character different from intellect.

Anonymous

In my day, the Judge’s job was to put the fear of God into counsel, solicitors,
Court clerks and defendants alike.

When passing death sentences with my black cap on, if the defendant soiled his trousers, I would have an emission in mine!

All the snowflakes around now don’t know they’re born!

Nice

Nasty!

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