A “gratuitously rude” judge who told a 13-year-old girl that her case was “codswallop” has come under attack from MPs after receiving his second official rebuke in a matter of days for breaching legal standards.
Judge Robert Dodds, who sits at the family court in Liverpool, is being investigated by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.
This comes after he was reprimanded twice in two days by Court of Appeal judges and told that he should be “embarrassed” by his conduct and his use of “unrestrained and immoderate language that had to be deplored”.
A panel of senior judges said Judge Dodds’ remarks, made as he handled a child’s application for a DNA test to determine her true paternity, constituted a “serious procedural irregularity”.
The appeal court judgment report revealed that Judge Dodds had asked: “If the child had told her legal representatives that the moon was made of green cheese, whether they would have answered ‘yes, sir, yes, sir, three bags full’.”
It was reported: “He went on to state that the lunatics had truly taken over the asylum, and that just because the lunatics had said they wanted something did not mean that they should be spoon fed.”
Judge Dodds told the child that she “might want to put her crash helmet” on for his decision, stating that he was minded to make her pay for the test herself – despite the Legal Aid Agency already agreeing to cover the cost.
The judge also said he was “bitterly resentful” at being asked to spend his weekend reading the material relating to the case, which he described as “codswallop”.
John Pugh, the Liberal Democrat MP for Southport, welcomed news that the judge was now the subject of a disciplinary investigation with the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.
He told The Independent: “There are a lot of people very concerned about the manner of [his] judicial performance, if nothing else.
“There is a certain standard which judges must observe. Judges are not above the law, nor are they above criticism. In legal terms, there is a prima facie case to answer.”
He added: “As an ordinary representative of the public, they need reassurance from the legal bodies that this man is capable.
“Judges are allowed some flexibility and discretion and even allowed to be witty at times, but there is a case where there was no discretion and no wit.”
The attack on his conduct came just days after the Court of Appeal agreed to review a case in which a mother and her 11-year-old son were separated by the judge, despite their pleas to remain together.
Lawyers and social workers agreed that the boy’s two siblings, aged 14 and 10, should live with their grandparents but the boy wanted to stay with his mother, a reformed drug addict.
The boy was described as academically capable and “overachieving” at school but had gone through numerous placements with foster parents, and his life had been characterised by “continued instability, distress and fervent desire to go home”.
The review of the case found that Judge Dodds made up his mind about the child’s future before reviewing the evidence, based on an out-of-date report compiled by social workers.
“Of equal concern is the cursory way in which he has dealt with some cases,” Mr Pugh added. “Justice needs to be seen to be done.”
Sir James Munby, the president of the family division of the High Court, said: “No dispassionate observer of the proceedings could think that justice was done, let alone that it was seen to be done.”
Lord Justice Lewison added that justice could not be done “when a judge has apparently made up his mind before hearing argument or evidence.”
That case has been taken out of Judge Dodds’ hands.Reuse content