Now I won’t repeat the language, but we could all agree Judge Patricia Lynch QC was accurate in her assessment of John Hennigan. The swastika-painting, Nazi-sympathising defendant seems the sort that would rile the most dispassionate observer.
Since Lynch's reported exchange with Hennigan this week at Chelmsford crown court, the judge has become a bit of a legend in the media. Television personality Judge Rinder even suggested she was ‘speaking to the thug in the only language he understood’.
But this was not a bar-room exchange, or a have-a-go-hero in the street telling this thug what we’re all thinking.
Lynch is required to be above this provocation, to remain professional in the face of grotesque unpleasantness and ensure the reputation of our legal system is upheld. Her oath of office requires her to 'do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill will'.
With this in mind, the reported complaint to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office seems justified.
To simply wave this away as an example of emotions getting the better of her would be double standards. We don’t even need to ask what would happen to a solicitor caught speaking their mind in this way. In August last year, a solicitor found himself hauled before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal for referring to his opponent’s clients as ‘Tweedledum and Tweedledee’, as well as calling another solicitor a plonker. He was reprimanded as well as thrown a £2,600 bill for prosecution costs.
Lynch may well be lauded by the British public. She may well be saying what were all thinking about Hennigan. But – and I’m sorry to be po-faced about this – she is the one person definitely not entitled to engage in exchanging obscenities in court. If the prosecuting lawyer had turned round and said the same, they’d have the book thrown at them.
John Hyde is deputy news editor at the Gazette