Magistrate given formal warning after researching defendant online  

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By Thomas Connelly on


Help reaching decision

A magistrate has apologised for conducting internet research on a defendant in a bid to help him reach a decision in a case.

Mr Grant Roberts JP said the error had come from a lack of knowledge and understanding as he was a “relatively inexperienced magistrate”.

Guidance states that it is not appropriate for magistrates to conduct internet research into cases they are to hear, on issues arising within cases or into people involved in cases as to do so could compromise judicial impartiality.

Roberts accepted that he would have been informed about this in induction training but did not recall it at the time, according the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.

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The notice provides limited detail of the incident itself, but does state: “A complaint was made by a barrister, after he was advised by the legal advisor in court, that his case would have to be moved to a fresh court, as Mr Roberts JP, one of a panel of three magistrates, had conducted an independent internet research on the defendant to assist him in reaching a decision.”

Roberts accepted full responsibility for his actions and apologised for his error.

A conduct panel found Roberts’ actions had “damaged his integrity and standing and that of wider magistracy and therefore amounted to misconduct”.

Mr Justice Keehan and the Lord Chancellor agreed with the conduct panel’s findings and issued Roberts with a formal warning.

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