Judges (Breach of Standards)

Oral Answers to Questions — Justice – in the House of Commons at 2:30 pm on 10th November 2009.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Gordon Prentice Gordon Prentice Labour, Pendle 2:30 pm, 10th November 2009

How many judges have stood down as a result of a breach of standards of conduct in court in the last five years.

Watch this
Embed this video

Copy and paste this code on your website

Hide

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

Between 2004 and 2009, 95 magistrates, 14 tribunal members and two judges were removed for misconduct. It is not known how many of these cases involved breaches of conduct within a courtroom. In addition, last year five tribunal members, 12 magistrates and two judges resigned during course of conduct proceedings.

Watch this

Photo of Gordon Prentice Gordon Prentice Labour, Pendle

I am going to write to my friend on the Front Bench about these statistics and what he has just said. In this age of transparency, is it not a disgrace that he has decided to allow judges no longer to declare whether they are freemasons, as we know that one in 20 of our judges is a freemason? Why on earth the cloak of secrecy?

Watch this

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

There was no secrecy about my announcement. I made an announcement by way of written ministerial statement last week in the light of a European Court of Human Rights judgment against the state of Italy that was made in 2006 and to which our attention was drawn by the grand lodge of freemasons. The judgment suggested that continuation of a compulsory register, which kind of register does not apply elsewhere within the criminal justice system, was likely to be unlawful. After legal advice, I accepted that. It is open to any judge to declare that they are a freemason. In 1996-97, the Home Affairs Committee, whose recommendations led to the freemasonry register across the criminal justice system, came to no conclusions about any unacceptable behaviour by freemason judges, and there has been no evidence since.

Watch this