Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

Judge not, that ye be judged

For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

The news that four judges, of varyingly modest eminence, have been sacked has inevitably elicited a degree of glee in the press.
Let's get one thing straight: none of these guys was a proper judge, any more than I am. (Note to pedants: on the few times a year when I sit beside a Crown Court Judge  on appeals, I am, in law, a judge. But not a real one). 
My daily paper tells me that most adult men have at some time viewed the pornography that is ubiquitous on the Interweb. That is up to them. The four Dirty Beaks (as the scurrilous press will no doubt dub them) stand convicted of nothing worse than naivety: that their internet trawling was and would remain secret. Using the judicial IT system (to which I have limited and unused access) may have been careless, and certainly was naive.
The point of this post is to say that in the present social and political climate no journalist can resist the lure of bringing down the dignity of a judge. 
I have been a Bench Chairman several times over the years, and one of my duties included giving an introductory pep talk to new JPs.
I always pointed out that a silly spat between neighbours that held no interest for the local rag became headline material when it became "JP in Neighbour Row".
I have met and worked with all levels of judges over the years, and I can say without reservation that almost without exception they are impressive  hardworking and straight.


  1. 1. Pretty sure that all the companies that I have worked at would have fired someone for looking at pornography in the office.
    2. One or two of these characters have been described as 'recorders', which, as I understand it, is a judge that ranks above a DJ, can sit alone in the Crown Court, and sounds pretty much like a judge to me, even if only a part-time judge.

  2. "Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged" is a rather hypocritical headline for a JP.

    > nothing worse than naivety

    No, that's not true. Using govt kit to view porn was against their contract of employment, or whatever (doubtless you know the technical details better than me). This looks like nothing more than you defending your own.

  3. You say that none was a proper judge. One was a District Judge, apparently in the civil courts. Surely he counts as a proper judge?

    More generally, though, the incident seems to me to raise some questions.

    1. Presumably the offence here is only misuse of the court service IT system. If they had watched the same material at home on their own computers, it is hard to see that any action could have been taken.

    2.Allowing that it is misuse, as it obviously is, did it really justify dismissal?

    3. Would the same sanction be applied for ANY misuse of the system? Suppose a judge, in the course of her working day, has a spare half-hour; suppose that she goes online via the court system and spends the time playing sudoku. Is that a misuse of the system (presumably so). If so, would she be sacked for it?

    4. All those dismissed in this incident hold office at the pleasure of (I think) the LCJ. It used to be the Lord Chancellor, but I think responsibility has been transferred to the LCJ, who is now the head of the legal profession. What would happen to more senior judges who committed the same offence? Circuit Judges are subject to removal in the same way as DJ's, though it is obviously far more serious to remove a CJ. I cannot remember the last one to be sacked, though it is well known that a few in recent years have been strongly encouraged to think that it was time to retire. High Court Judges have, on paper at least, much better protection. They hold office 'during good behaviour' but forcible removal requires a petiton to the Sovereign by both Houses of Parliament. I don't think this has ever been done (I have a vague recollection of being told that it had been done once since the current definition was enacted in the Act of Settlement 1702, but I cannot immediately track down the reference). Again, it is not wholly unknown for HCJ's to be quietly pushed out, but would this really be done for no more than watching porn (or indeed playing sudoku) of the court service IT system?

  4. Do we want as working "judges" anyone who(a) is too stupid to realise that it might be someone's job to look for one-handed surfing on the judicial intranet and that when found it wouldn't be applauded by one hand or two, and (b) if they wanted to look at videos of bare ladies in their office were too mean to buy a decent data roaming contract for their tablet?

    When networked internet started to become common, unscrupulous organisations used to use incidents like this to extract long-sought resignations from people they wanted rid of for other reasons.

    Echoing the innocent Bystander, I can't bear the hypocrisy behind some of the reports. As a manager myself I found that a quiet warning couched in the most circumlocuitous phraseology normally brought people up short , as they had a momentary horrifying glimpse of how they might explain to their wives or partners how they got their P45,

    Also we should not get this out of proportion. It doesn't seem as though there was anything wildly off-centre found in these people's browsing records. And it was only 4 out of a very large number of potential transgressors. One of the big IT companies, for example, once sacked its 1,000 heaviest viewers of porn pour dis-encourager les autres,

    Seeing the headline last night had me reading the London Evening Standard for the first time since West Ham won the cup. Not out of prurience, I told myself, but to see if I knew any of them. Which I didn't, disappointingly.

  5. Was what they were viewing illegal? Not it wasn't. Was it right that they were sacked for being so naïve, or just plain stupid, by viewing it on court equipment when they were at work? Yes it was. Should we hold judges, be they junior or senior, to a higher than standard than others? Yes we should.

    1. Most places will sack you if you spend too much time doing non-work things on the internet, on the basis you're there to work. Few things more easily demonstrable as "non-work" than a mixed group of naked people sharing body fluids. The people concerned are decently paid by any standard, and should damn well earn it and not leave us lay magistsrates struggling to cope with the overnight allocation courts. Harrumph harrumph

  6. A very odd format for posting the latest blog !

    1. We have no idea why Blogger did that, but I was posting late at night and decided not to bother investigating, so I finished my glass of Scotch and retired.

  7. They were sacked for showing an atrocious lack of judgment, and rightly so. One commentator above asks whether they'd have been sacked for playing sudoku in their lunch break on their court IT equipment. Of course not.

    I am dismayed that Bystander's post is seen by as "defending [his] own" by William. How on earth does he reach that conclusion?

    Kate Caveat
    P.S. (Pedant alert) Lay justices sitting in the family court are now also deemed to be "judges of the family court" (but not "real" judges as defined by BS above).

  8. I'm intrigued as to how a DoJ desktop computer or laptop was able to access porn sites in the first place. Most government IT departments block their users from viewing porn, and record attempts to do so. Police laptops holding sensitive information, as an example, won't even let users log on unless the computer is connected to their secure network, so why are DoJ computers seemingly not locked down?

  9. They surely have Internet access at home. How obsessed must they be to take the risk of watching it at work?

  10. Rank stupidity nothing more.
    If people want to watch( legal ) porn that is their business as long as it is done in their own private surroundings. Using work kit is a no-no!

    My God if this is all that can be raked up against judges its a bad job. most as others say are very hard working individuals- but human, however porn at work just shows very poor judgement

  11. You are 100% right, totally agreed.


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