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Gagged, judge who dared to stick up for marriage: Watchdog rebukes him over involvement in campaign
22:43 GMT, 4 December 2012
Sir Paul Coleridge is listed as 'founder and chairman' of the Marriage Foundation think-tank
A judge was ordered to keep a ‘lower profile’ yesterday – after he spoke out in favour of marriage.
Judicial watchdogs rebuked High Court family law judge Sir Paul Coleridge following protests about his involvement in a campaign to make marriage ‘the gold standard of relationships’.
Sir Paul is listed as ‘founder and chairman’ of the Marriage Foundation think-tank and boosted its launch with a series of high-profile interviews and newspaper articles.
But a barrister complained to the Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC), the disciplinary body for judges, that Sir Paul was breaking rules that prevent judges associating themselves with any ‘organisation, group or cause’.
The disciplinary panel, led by Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling and a senior High Court judge, President of the Queen’s Bench Division Sir John Thomas, found there had been no judicial misconduct.
But the OJC said: ‘Mr Justice Coleridge has agreed that a lower profile role within the organisation would be more appropriate for a serving judicial office holder.’
However, the Marriage Foundation responded defiantly, saying that the agreement for the judge to keep a lower profile was ‘subjective’ and ‘advisory’.
A spokesman said: ‘We are delighted that the misguided complaint against Sir Paul has been completely dismissed.
‘He is now free to carry on his role as the head of the organisation that champions the institution of marriage and the many benefits that it brings to society.’
Sir Paul said: ‘I will treat each interview request on its merits.’
The complaint was laid against Sir Paul – one of the longest-standing family court judges and a figure who has repeatedly spoken out against the devastating effects of family break-up and the difficulties faced by families that are based on cohabitation – in May.
It coincided with a controversial conference on same-sex marriage organised by Christian groups.
Sir Paul had agreed to deliver a
speech as part of a discussion on ‘how an integrated, compelling case
for authentic marriage can be constructed and communicated in the
current climate’ but pulled out of the engagement.
Organisers said he had had second thoughts about becoming involved in a discussion on ‘the redefinition of marriage’.
The OJC said yesterday: ‘Having
considered all of the facts, the Lord Chancellor and the President of
the Queen’s Bench Division (on behalf of the Lord Chief Justice) do not
consider Mr Justice Coleridge’s involvement with the Marriage Foundation
to be incompatible with his judicial responsibilities and therefore it
does not amount to judicial misconduct.’
Sir Paul has repeatedly spoken out against the devastating effects of family break-up and the difficulties faced by families that are based on cohabitation
It has not been revealed who made the complaint against Sir Paul, claiming he was in breach of Section 8.2.2 of the Guide to Judicial Conduct.
This says that ‘care should be taken about the place at which, and the occasion on which, a judge speaks so as not to cause the public to associate the judge with a particular organisation, group or cause’.
It adds: ‘The participation should not be in circumstances which may give rise to a perception of partiality… or to a lack of even-handedness.’
The Marriage Foundation says that ‘private and public attitudes need to change; reaffirming marriage as the “gold standard” for couple relationships is an essential first step’.
Last month, Sir Paul wrote a foreword to the think-tank’s analysis of celebrity marriages, in which he said: ‘There is a disconnect between the nature of real long-term relationships and the dramatised and apparently more exciting versions portrayed on screen or imagined for them by the rest of us.’
JUST DESERTS FOR JUDGE WHO PRAISED 'BRAVE' BURGLAR
The judge who caused a public outcry by praising a burglar’s ‘courage’ was last night given an official reprimand for damaging public trust in the courts.
Judge Peter Bowers admitted he might be ‘pilloried’ when he decided to spare Richard Rochford jail at Teesside Crown Court in September, saying: ‘It takes a huge amount of courage… to burgle somebody’s house.’
His actions sparked public anger and the Prime Minister intervened to say housebreakers were not brave but ‘cowards’. LBC 97.3 radio presenter Nick Ferrari contacted the Office for Judicial Complaints after thousands of listeners complained.
Now, following a formal investigation, Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling and the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, have upheld complaints about Judge Bowers.
They issued him with a reprimand for making remarks which ‘damaged public confidence in the judicial process’, adding that the use of the word courage was a ‘serious error of judgment’ and ‘offensive’ to burglary victims.