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”.
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”.
“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.”