LETTER: No judge is above public judgement

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The Independent Online
From Mr Dermot Feenan

Sir: Justice is not served by Peter Goldsmith's suggestion that the public should not protest to judges and magistrates about their sentencing (Comment, 11 December). Sentencing involves, in part, the exercise of judicial discretion. Unjust exercise of this discretion, of which there is ample evidence in this and other countries, is a legitimate target of public criticism.

Writing letters or communication by other media to judges registers direct concern about justice that the adversarial and appellate system, case law and legislation, courses offered by the Judicial Studies Board or advice from the Lord Chancellor may not, and perhaps cannot, achieve.

British judges, unelected and drawn overwhelmingly from white, male Oxbridge graduates, remain largely removed from significant aspects of public concern. They sometimes apply inappropriate assumptions and stereotypes. In the absence of transparent and more effective rules for addressing improper exercise of judicial office, public challenge of judges can effectively serve the interests of justice.

Yours sincerely,

Dermot Feenan

Downpatrick, Co Down