Judges will be trained on how to avoid inadvertent inappropriate behaviour with colleagues, the lord chief justice has revealed - after research that he commissioned uncovered examples of bullying, harassment or discrimination.
Lord Burnett of Maldon told the House of Commons justice select committee yesterday that judges were asked in a welfare survey last year whether they felt they had been the subject of inappropriate comments or behaviour. ‘The answer suggested some people did,’ he said.
Qualitative research subsequently commissioned by the judicial office, which involved talking to solicitors, barristers and judges, found examples of inappropriate behaviour. Questions in this year’s Judicial Attitudes Survey, whose findings have yet to be published, also confirmed that some judges experienced inappropriate behaviour.
To tackle the problem, Burnett told the committee that a ‘short statement of behaviour expected of judges’ will be issued.
Bespoke training will be given to all leadership judges on how to avoid inadvertent inappropriate behaviour and they will be expected to disseminate good practice, he said. ‘Then our plan is to weave into induction and continuation training for all judges the essentials of good behaviour and avoiding inappropriate behaviour, particularly inadvertent inappropriate behaviour.’
He added: ‘Unlike many organisations, we set out to find out about this ourselves. We asked questions which we did not know the answer to. But it was important to learn whether we had problems of the sort other organisations have. I hope they are fewer than in many other organisations but it would be folly to pretend we do not have some problems. We are taking immediate steps to do what we can to mitigate those problems.’
Asked about a recent report alleging racial bias in the judiciary, Burnett said the report did not purport to be the foundation for broad conclusions but to provide a brief overview. ‘That is not to diminish the importance of the message that those respondents were giving and we are taking it into account.’
The report, published by the University of Manchester, revealed that over half of 373 legal professionals surveyed had seen at least one judge act in a racially biased way.
This article is now closed for comment.