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Silence in court

Martin Rosenbaum | 14:34 UK time, Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Is too much scrutiny and debate a bad thing?

Yes, according to the Department for Constitutional Affairs, in the case of complaints about judges.

The BBC put a freedom of information query to the DCA asking for details of disciplinary actions against judges. Last week the DCA supplied some overall figures, but refused to give details of individual cases. The reason?

'Disclosure would expose the sensitivities of specific investigations of cases of personal judicial misconduct to an inappropriate level of public scrutiny. This would inevitably lead to increased speculation about the correctness or otherwise of the final recommendations made to the LC [Lord Chancellor], unnecessarily prolonging public debate about the outcome of particular investigations.'

And, argued the DCA, it could also cause problems for judges in court:

'Their position would become untenable if for instance a minor previous indiscretion were in the public domain resulted in them being discredited in the eyes of the litigant when the LC and LCJ [Lord Chief Justice] had previously reached the decision that such minor indiscretion would not impact on their ability to maintain their position in judicial office. The possibility also exists for individuals to expose a previous sanction by attempting to antagonise a judge so as to bring on a repetition of the previous misconduct thereby intentionally causing a disruption to proceedings.'

So judges have to be protected from irritating litigants who would seek to provoke them into repeating the offending behaviour. Perhaps it would be a case of three strikes and you're out.

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