Judges get guidelines on 'bad' behaviour

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The Independent Online
JUDGES may race along motorways at 90 miles per hour, park their Mercedes on double yellow lines and refuse to pay parking fines without fear of losing their jobs. But they risk being ousted from the bench if they drive under the influence of drink or drugs or are convicted of crimes involving violence, dishonesty or depravity.

Actions involving racial and religious offence grounds, or amounting to sexual harassment, could also be regarded as 'misbehaving', according to guidelines issued by the Lord Chancellor's Department to the 1,000 full-time judges in England and Wales.

The list of the Beak's dos and don'ts was produced to advise judges on how badly they can behave without risk of being disqualified from sitting in judgement. This follows some notorious cases involving judges.

Details of the letter from Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the Lord Chancellor, were disclosed by the most senior judge, Lord Taylor of Gosforth, the Lord Chief Justice, yesterday. It reveals that judges who faced criminal charges for parking or speeding did not have to let the Lord Chancellor's Department know. It added that convictions for some offences, including motoring matters, were not necessarily incompatible to sitting on the bench.

Lord Taylor said the letter was intended to set out circumstances when the Lord Chancellor might exercise his disciplinary powers so that judges could not turn round and say 'nobody told me so'.

Judges who have 'behaved badly' in recent years include:

Mr Justice Harman, a High Court judge, who kicked a London cab driver in a fracas witnessed by journalists outside his home.

Judge William Crawford QC, 55, who was publicly rebuked for kissing and hugging a court usher at Newcastle upon Tyne Crown Court in September 1992 in an 'over-familiar greeting'.

Recorder Timothy Parkin, of Gateshead, Tyne and Wear, who was convicted of kerb crawling in the red light district of Chapeltown, Leeds, in March 1991.

The Lord Chancellor does not have the power to dismiss High Court judges, Lord Justices of Appeal or Lords of Appeal. Both Houses of Parliament need to approve their dismissal, but it is thought this has not been done for 200 years.