Anti-racist rules for judges

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The Independent Online

THE LORD CHANCELLOR is to issue anti-racism guidelines to Britain's judges in an attemptto stop them causing offence to ethnic minorities.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR is to issue anti-racism guidelines to Britain's judges in an attemptto stop them causing offence to ethnic minorities.

The move, in response to the Stephen Lawrence inquiry, aims to counter criticism that the courts are "institutionally racist" in the way they deal with black and Asian people.

It follows a number of cases in which judges, through ignorance, have caused offence by failing to recognise the cultural differences in other races and religions.

There have been incidents where judges have unintentionally referred to Muslim witnesses and parties as "God" in their own religion by addressing them as Mr Mohammed.

Judge David Pearl, the new director of studies at the Judicial Studies Board, which is drawing up the guidance, said: "It's actually quite offensive for a Muslim to be called Mr Mohammed. There is only one Mohammed."

Under the new rules, Muslim witnesses or parties appearing in court during the fasting month of Ramadan will be offered breaks when giving evidence. Due to fasting, they may appear slow, unintelligent or difficult in the witness box. If the judge is not aware of the reason, said Judge Pearl, then it could cause problems for the witness and may even affect the outcome of the case.

"Offence without intending to offend can be given as a result of a false name," said Judge Pearl. An Indian girl may be called "something Kaur", then addressed by the judge as Miss Kaur. "Kaur in India means Miss so the judge is calling her Miss Miss," said Judge Pearl.

Judge Pearl said: "We want a well-educated judiciary who are aware that we are living in a multi-cultural environment."