The lord chief justice has issued a strong defence of the judiciary’s efforts to protect the welfare of its members.

Lord Burnett of Maldon said today that the judiciary had been ‘more active in this field than pretty much any other organisation’.

The Gazette reported last week that the GMB union had formally constituted a judges’ branch amid heavy criticism of the way individual judges are being treated at work. Senior organiser Stuart Fegan wrote to the LCJ describing an allegedly ‘toxic work environment’ and decrying ‘at best tokenistic’ initiatives to improve workplace experience or culture.

Questioned by journalists at his annual press conference, Burnett said he was aware of Fegan’s letter and – without addressing the points raised directly – stressed that changes have been made.

‘We are doing a huge amount to protect the welfare of our judges,’ said Burnett. ‘In particular the work we have been doing to identify and deal with what may generally be called inappropriate behaviour has been forward-looking and in my view quite far-sighted.

Lord Chief Justice

Lord Burnett: Judiciary has ‘completely transformed’ help for its members

‘The basic premise is that we have completely transformed the welfare offering for judges.’

He explained that training has been provided for designated leaders in family, civil and criminal courts to ‘ram home’ that it is their responsibility to deal with issues in their courts. He added that a whistleblowing procedure had been established as well as a new grievance process. The GMB said last week that a ‘significant’ number of judges reported bullying and harassment.

Burnett said that a recent survey of judges – the results of which will be published later this year – had found a ‘small proportion’ of judges who felt they had been the subject of inappropriate behaviour from some other judges, lawyers or litigants.

The LCJ added: ‘We really have been more active in this field than pretty much any other organisation. I am also conscious of the fact that whatever we do it will never satisfy some people.

'As a general observation it is important to listen to those who shout loudest and take account of the quality of what they [say] but just because someone shouts loudly you don’t completely change your way of doing things.’


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