A judge who shouted at counsel and even suggested they were lazy was nonetheless not biased, an appeal has ruled. In Kidd v The Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, His Honour Judge Shanks said Employment Judge Snelson went beyond what was required in dismissing a former police officer’s claim, but this did not equate to bias and was not sufficient to overturn the tribunal’s decision.
The claimant Samantha Kidd, who worked for the Metropolitan Police, brought claims for sex and disability discrimination, harassment and victimisation. Following a 14-day hearing the employment tribunal comprehensively rejected her claims.
Her appeal relied on two exchanges during the hearing, one between Kidd and Snelson and the other between the judge and Kidd’s counsel, named as Miss Staunton.
Kidd said she was upset by a line of questioning from the judge pursued in what she described as a ‘forceful, condescending and sarcastic way’.
HHJ Shanks said the questions to Kidd were relevant and not unreasonable, and not hostile to the claimant.
The appeal judge was also asked to assess exchanges between counsel and the judge, after Staunton had suggested her opposite number might be seen to be attempting to corrupt witness evidence. The defence barrister, Rebecca Tuck, was upset by the accusation and the incident led to a short adjournment.
The following morning, it was accepted by the appeal court that the judge raised his voice to the claimant’s counsel, with the judgment recording that Snelson shouted: ‘OH PLEASE, MS STAUNTON!’ (sic). Snelson went on: ‘You need to learn it is down to the tribunal about how they deal with a case! It isn’t for you to say! Do you understand?’
HHJ Shanks accepted that the judge raised his voice and did not let the barrister finish what she wanted to say. The appeal judgment added: ‘I think it is fair to say that he [Snelson] may have gone a bit far and a bit hard in his [written] comments’, which included suggesting Staunton had been lazy, and he 'may have said more than he strictly needed to about her conduct’.
The appeal judge said it was common for judges to raise concerns about a case and that writing to heads of chambers or the Bar Standards Board ‘does not get very far’.
‘He may have gone, as I say, a little over the top. But the real point here in any event is that hostility shown towards an advocate is not to be equated with hostility towards a party.’ The appeal was dismissed.