Judges given new advice on political correctness

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The Independent Online

Judges have been issued with guidelines to encourage political correctness in court. Advice sent to all judges and magistrates in England and Wales, tackles misleading social stereotypes that have led to a high-profile judicial gaffes.

Judges have been issued with guidelines to encourage political correctness in court. Advice sent to all judges and magistrates in England and Wales, tackles misleading social stereotypes that have led to a high-profile judicial gaffes.

Judges are told the term "coloured" should never be used, to avoid using the description "oriental" and to take care that "British" is not used as shorthand for white, English or Christian. They are also given a definition of asylum-seeker, and are reminded that women "remain disadvantaged" in society. "The disadvantages women can suffer range from inadequate recognition of their contribution to the home or society to an underestimation of the problems women face as a result of gender bias," the guidance says.

For the first time since the Equal Treatment Bench Book was published 10 years ago, judges are offered advice on the state of social deprivation and poverty in Britain.

The term "asylum-seeker" is associated with people without a genuine claim to be refugees, and is almost pejorative, the advice said. Although asylum applications increased by 18 per cent in 2002 to 84,130, the guidance reminds judges that 42 per cent of them were successful, resulting in grants of asylum, exceptional leave to remain or allowed appeals.

Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, highlighted the need for judges to be seen to act fairly. "While we must treat people equally, of course we are all different and that is part of the rub," he said. "Another part of the difficulty is the fact that not only must justice be done, it must be seen to be done, and although judges are in fact acting and behaving fairly, if they don't appear to be acting fairly that is just not good enough."

The updated handbook, published by the Judicial Studies Board, also has a section on religion which includes a pocket guide to the beliefs of the world's religions.

And judges are advised not to overlook the use of gender-based, racist or "homophobic" stereotyping as an "evidential short cut". They are also warned against using words that imply an "evaluation" of the sexes, however subtle: for instance, "man and wife", "girl" (unless speaking of a child) and "businessmen".

The judiciary is to undergo regular training sessions.

TERMS TO AVOID

Coloured: An offensive term that should never be used

Oriental: The term should be avoided because it is imprecise and may be considered racist or offensive

British: Care should be taken to use the term "British" in an inclusive sense, to include all citizens. Exclusionary use of the term as a synonym for white, English, or Christian is unacceptable

Postman: Use postal worker instead

Are you married?: Intrusive and irrelevant

Mentally handicap: Judges should use instead "learning disabilities" and "people with disabilities"