Two magistrates have been hauled over the coals this week over their inappropriate use of social media. The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) published both judgments on the same day after inquiries into the magistrates’ conduct.
In one case, Atul Gandecha was issued with formal advice after an investigation determined that he posted a picture of himself on social media along with a caption ‘which could have created the impression that he did not take his role as a magistrate seriously’. In the other matter, Roger Warrington was issued with a warning for his involvement in an inappropriate conversation on social media.
The JCIO confirmed that the Lord Chancellor and Mrs Justice Cheema Grubb, on behalf of the Lord Chief Justice, had decided that by being party to the conversation Warrington ‘had not upheld the high standards of behaviour of a judicial office holder’.
In guidance issued in March 2018, the use of social networking by judicial office-holders is said to be a matter of personal choice, but members of the judiciary are urged to be wary of publishing more information than is necessary or posting information which could result in a risk to personal safety.
Judicial office-holders are encouraged to raise privacy settings within social media forums and avoid posting photographs of themselves in casual settings, whether alone or with family or friends. They must also avoid expressing opinions which, were it to become known they hold judicial office, ‘could damage public confidence in their own impartiality’.
The notices outlining the investigation outcomes have come in for some criticism. Blogger @BarristerSecret asked why details in the public notice were subject to 'secrecy’, adding: ‘This is a shining example of why JCIO findings should contain the actual facts of the misconduct.’