Judges in England and Wales have been told to feel confident to speak up about any wrongdoing after a new whistleblowing policy was unveiled this week.
The calls from the lord chief justice (LCJ) and senior president of tribunals (SPT) come in a 12-page policy on the issue published on the judicial intranet on Wednesday, according to the Law Gazette of England and Wales.
The document says: “In introducing this policy, the LCJ and SPT want everyone to have the confidence to speak up, to be secure in the knowledge that it is safe and acceptable to do so, and to know that if you raise a concern under this policy, you will not suffer any detriment.”
The policy concerns the reporting of wrongdoing “reasonably believed to be in the public interest”, such as a criminal offence or breach of any legal obligation. Complainants do not need to have proof of the wrongdoing. “Reasonable belief is sufficient,” the policy states.
The Gazette says personal conduct is not covered by the policy “unless amounting to wrongdoing that is reasonably believed to be in the public interest”.
Judicial grievance policies cover formal and informal processes for raising concerns relating to harassment, bullying or discrimination.
Point of contact
Nominated judicial officeholders have been appointed to act as a “confidential and impartial point of contact and information” for officeholders raising a concern or complaint under the whistleblowing or grievance policies, or for an officeholder who is the subject of a complaint.
The judiciary told the Gazette that 14 judicial officeholders had been nominated, and that details were available on the judicial intranet.
The judiciary said nominated judges were chosen based on expressions of interest, with a selection panel reviewing applications to ensure representation from different jurisdictions, experience, and background.
The judiciary revealed in April that a new whistleblowing policy was in the works in its response to a letter by eight, anonymous, serving judges who claimed colleagues had been “undermined, belittled or accused of being mentally unstable” for raising concerns about a lack of diversity within the judiciary.
Whistleblowing legislation in Ireland protects those defined as a “worker”, and does not cover officeholders such as judges.
In a landmark judgment in 2019, however, the UK’s Supreme Court ruled that District Judge Claire Gilham could be classified as a "worker" and was therefore entitled to whistleblowing protection.