A barrister has criticised judges who ‘belittle and undermine’ advocates, claiming they can have a profound impact on wellbeing.

In a Twitter post Mary Aspinall-Miles, an executive committee member of the Criminal Bar Association and a tenant at 12 College Place in Southampton, said she had seen judges come across as ‘unnecessarily aggressive/sharp’ over small issues.

mary aspinall miles

Mary Aspinall-Miles

Source: 12 College Place

‘Their criticisms in that tone sting and undermine professional confidence. The words stay with me long after the case is done,’ she said. She added that she and other barristers had occasionally been spoken to in a tone that would make most people have ’employment lawyers on speed dial’.

She also dismissed a tendency by some judges to justify their behaviour with the ‘in my day’ response.

Her comments yesterday tied in with Mental Health Awareness Day.

She continued: ’You won’t improve advocacy or performance by undermining and belittling advocates or welding yourself to an old view of the job. What happens when a relatively junior member of bar comes into contact like that? I am still smarting at something that was said to me without foundation from over ten days ago and I bet I am not alone in these things. We need honesty in these things if we are truly to achieve wellbeing at the bar.’

Aspinall-Miles added: ‘I get that judges’ workloads now are unbelievable and they are under stress too but they are in position of authority and most understand. I have no issue being brought to task by a judge for shortcomings/failings - in fact I welcome it if it helps me improve - but the tone is key.’

Her comments attracted positive reactions. Quadrant Chambers’ James Turner QC said leaving clients and lawyers to ’wonder what on earth they’re doing in court’ is profoundly damaging.

Another QC responded: ‘I’m a lot more robust now, but as a youngster it’s very hard to not be intimidated by a judge set on bullying you’.

The judiciary has been contacted for comment.