Disciplinary action against the judiciary is on the rise despite a drop in the number of complaints.

In its annual report for 2018/19, the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) said 55 sanctions were issued this year, the highest number since 2014/15. Over 60% of these related to magistrates.

The overall number of complaints against the judiciary dropped by almost a quarter however, from 2,147 in 2017/18 to 1,672. While the majority of complaints related to judicial decisions and case management, there were also 293 complaints about inappropriate behaviour and comments.

The JCIO removed 15 judicial members in total, including 13 magistrates.

Performance levels at the JCIO itself continued to drop this year, with the statutory office missing all of its targets. While the organisation aims to respond to 95% of complaints within two working days, it only managed to respond to 81% in this time frame.

The JCIO also aims to issue a first substantive response to 85% of complaints within 15 working days. However, it managed to respond to little over half in that time, blaming a spike in complaints and staff shortages.

The report said: ’We are disappointed to have fallen short of our targets despite the best efforts of the team in challenging circumstances. We experienced an unusual spike in complaints between April and June 2018 and knock-on effects were felt for approximately six months. Last year’s trend in terms of staff shortages continued to affect performance with an average vacancy rate of three (20% of our headcount) throughout the reporting year.’