Judges are a disgruntled breed – the last Judicial Attitudes survey made that perfectly clear. We sympathise.
But ascending to the bench does not come with a free pass to take out one’s personal animus on all-comers, including the courtroom advocate.
To hear, as we have done this month, of occasions when judges have belittled and undermined advocates is not to be taken lightly.
So full credit to barrister Mary Aspinall-Miles of Southampton. Her comments – hardly controversial given the knowing nods of many of her colleagues – opened a channel for lawyers to share their experiences and perhaps raise the spirits of young advocates feeling low after a judicial slap-down.
Thankfully, rudeness and aggression from the bench are the exception rather than the rule. But when advocates are going home in tears; when their confidence is shattered; when they fear humiliation for simply doing their jobs in court – we should support anyone who speaks out.
Yes, things probably were different back in the day. Yes, advocates of yesteryear perhaps did face even worse tongue-lashings from the bench. But so what – that was then.
To maintain the authority of the court, business should be conducted in a professional manner. There is nothing professional about shouting, fist banging, sarcasm and veiled threats.
To exploit a position of exalted authority to undermine and oppress others is bullying – plain and simple.