Disciplinary action against judges and magistrates has risen in June and July, as the number of judicial sanctions issued in 2020 looks set to overtake previous years.
Twenty disciplinary statements have been issued by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office in the past two months, taking the total number of sanctions so far this year to 36. A total of 55 sanctions were issued in the whole of 2018-19 – the highest number in five years - while just 39 investigations resulted in disciplinary action the year before.
Two judges have been sanctioned this year for the misuse of social media, with one recorder posting political comments online ‘which could have brought the judiciary into disrepute’. Meanwhile, a magistrate was issued with formal advice for remarks he made in an email to his bench chairman and an ageist comment he made to a colleague.
In a separate case, a magistrate was seen to have had his eyes closed during part of a hearing, which 'risked undermining the reputation of the magistracy for conspicuous attention to each case’. The majority of disciplinary statements stemmed from magistrates not meeting the minimum sitting requirements of his/her appointment, however.
Last November, the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office reported that disciplinary action against the judiciary is on the rise despite a drop in the number of complaints. While the majority of complaints related to judicial decisions and case management, there were also 293 complaints about inappropriate behaviour and comments last year.