Court officials sacked in record numbers

Bad conduct sees 30 law officers disciplined, and code is set to get tougher

Record numbers of judges, magistrates and other court officials are being kicked out of office as ministers continue to thrash out a stricter code of discipline for members of the judiciary.

The Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice last year sacked a record 30 law officers – three of them judges – for transgressions including criminal convictions, making inappropriate comments in court or misusing their legal status. They include a magistrate jailed for manslaughter and a circuit judge who quit after she was convicted of letting her dog bite a neighbour.

The number of cases dealt with by the Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC) since it was established in 2006 has spiralled above 9,000. Almost 150 judges, coroners, magistrates and tribunal members have been removed from office during the period.

But pressure groups maintain that too many judges and magistrates still escape punishment for misbehaviour towards those at the sharp end of the justice system. Tom Skewis, chief legal officer of Children Need Families, said he had often witnessed judges being rude to parents. "Some of them are getting away with being rude and overbearing because they are a law unto themselves".

OJC figures show that the annual toll of complaints against the judiciary has remained relatively stable – at more than 1,600 – over the years, although many of these were thrown out because they referred to trial decisions or the handling of cases.

But the number of individuals who have faced disciplinary action has risen steeply, from 32 in 2006-07 to more than 79 last year. The number forcibly removed from office almost doubled, from 16 to 30, and the overall total now stands at 149. Several more resigned or retired during investigations into their conduct.

The disciplinary process, which ensures judges are investigated by their peers, is overseen by the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor. Sanctions range from reprimands and formal "advice", to removal from office. The Government is putting the finishing touches to a "more streamlined and efficient" system.

In recent months, the OJC has reprimanded Judge Peter Bowers, who told a burglar that stealing from homes took "a huge amount of courage". Deputy District Judge Lucy Owens resigned last September, after an inquiry into her decision to enter an Individual Voluntary Arrangement – an alternative to bankruptcy.

John Fassenfelt, chairman of the Magistrates' Association, said: "It is always disappointing to hear of magistrates who are the subject of disciplinary action, though the number remains a tiny proportion of all 24,000 serving magistrates. Perhaps some of the answer lies with society itself which appears to be more demanding of issues relating to 'customer service'... rendering it more likely that people will make complaints."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Belong: Volunteer Mentor for Offenders

This is a volunteer role with paid expenses : Belong: Seeking volunteers who c...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Apprentice Telesales & Marketing Opportunities

£10400 - £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests