LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – If people thought a British judge rude or ill-behaved, they used to have to write to the Lord Chancellor’s Department, The Times reports. Their complaint would disappear into the anonymity of the quaintly called “judicial correspondence unit”. There was no formal public complaints procedure; most people probably did not know that the unit existed.
But since last year, a new body has been charged with monitoring the judges – a kind of “Ofjudge”, called the Office for Judicial Complaints. In its first year it received more than 1,600 complaints against judges, magistrates or other judicial officeholders and it has just published what steps it took.
Dale Simon, 42, a former Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) district prosecutor, who heads the office with a staff of 21, says that 1,674 complaints in its first year is 8 per cent up on the number sent to the old judicial correspondence unit, although direct comparisons are impossible as “complaints are not defined in the same way”.
But set against the millions of cases being tried by the 43,000 judges, magistrates and others each year the figure is tiny, she says. In addition, half the complaints are rejected because they relate to a judicial decision – which is outside the remit of the office and could be challenged only through an appeal. “The percentage of complaints is a minute fraction of all the cases that are going in the courts every day. From these figures we can be confident that we have a pretty well-behaved judiciary that we can have confidence in.
“The purist would say one complaint is one too many but realistically, when you are dealing with people, there is room for the occasional deviation from the very high standards we expect from our judiciary.”
The other 817 complaints span a range of alleged unjudicial behaviour including motoring-related offences (49); general rudeness (99); inappropriate comments (66); misuse of judicial status (38); and professional misconduct (51).