Judge says sorry for `nigger' remark

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The Independent Online
A High Court judge has apologised for making a racially offensive remark in a courtroom. A transcript of Judge William Crawford's remark has been sent to the office of the Lord Chancellor, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, who will make a decision on whether the judge is to be disciplined.

Judge Crawford, 60, who has been a circuit judge for 11 years, was presiding over a case in a court room in Newcastle-upon-Tyne last Friday when he made the remarks.

Discussing a legal point with barristers, he described hard-working people as "people who work like niggers".

A social worker, Mohan Das Singh, who was not connected with the case, was in the public gallery and felt deeply insulted by the remarks even though they were not aimed at him. He complained to the court officials and, receiving no help, made his views known to the court's division manager who took a written note of his complaint.

In a statement from the Lord Chancellor's office yesterday, Judge Crawford expressed his regret over the remarks.

"I wish to apologise for my use of these words in court last Friday," the judge said. "I intended no slur against anyone as the context [of the transcript] makes clear. I much regret if my inadvertent use of this expression has caused offence."

The apology came through the Lord Chancellor's office because judges work independently and without office support so they often use the resources - including the press office and secretaries - of the Lord Chancellor's office.

A spokeswoman for the Lord Chancellor's office said yesterday that this was not an apology from Lord Mackay himself, although he was being sent a transcript of the remarks.

Once he has read the transcript he will determine whether further action should be taken. The Lord Chancellor has the power to remove circuit judges from office if he thinks they are "guilty of judicial misconduct or incapacity".

Mr Singh, a Londoner who was visiting friends in Newcastle, was spending the day in court when he heard the remarks. He said his job as a social worker requires him to have a good knowledge of the legal system and he spends occasional days watching hearings.

He was not satisfied with the judge's apology and is writing formally to the Lord Chancellor to lodge a further complaint. "I can't accept it. There's no point apologising for it," he said last night. "I was there just as a member of the public. Everybody was aghast in the court room when he said it.

"I was the only non-white person in the court room and people felt sorry for me. I could see they knew I was offended. In 1997 that word is not acceptable."

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