This Guide to Judicial Conduct has been drafted by a working group of judges set up by the Judges’ Council, under the chairmanship of Lord Justice Pill and published by the Judges’ Council following extensive consultation with the judiciary. As Chairman of the Judges’ Council I would like to express my gratitude to the working group for their immense generosity in time and effort in producing the Guide.
We are justifiably proud of our existing standards of judicial conduct. However, the recent adoption of written codes of conduct throughout the world and the endorsement of principles by the UN Human Rights Commission at Geneva in April 2003, have indicated that a written Guide for England and Wales would now be desirable and in accord with international practice.
The range of restraints that are inherent in the acceptance of judicial office together with the obligations placed on judges by the taking of the Judicial Oath, have been taken into account by the working group. However, the responsibilities and the public’s perception of the standards to which judges should adhere are continuously evolving. To take but one example, when I came to the Bar it was considered in order for a son to appear before his father. This would be unacceptable today. So this Guide will have to evolve to keep up with these changes.
This Guide is intended to offer assistance to judges on issues rather than to prescribe a detailed code and to set up principles from which judges can make their own decisions and so maintain their judicial independence. I know that it will prove to be a valuable tool in assisting judges to deal with difficult ethical problems with which they will be inevitably faced. As important requirements as to conduct are also set out in each member of the judiciary’s Terms and Conditions of Appointment, the Guide must be read in conjunction with those Terms and Conditions.
Although it is primarily aimed at professional full and part-time judges, I would hope that the Guide will be of assistance to all the judiciary, including lay magistrates and tribunal members as well.
The Guide has been updated to include, amongst other things: references to the Equality and Diversity policy published in October 2012; guidance on blogging issued in August 2012; and clarification of the requirements for notifying legal proceedings and other matters relating to conduct.