|Aghh Michael Gove's coming... delete, delete, delete|
Last year three judges were sacked and one resigned after being caught viewing pornography at work. There was no suggestion that this interfered with their judicial office or any cases that they were hearing. It all happened in private in their own offices and appears to have been detected only because the Ministry of Justice audited computer use by employees. It appears that none of this was regular and, in some cases, occurred on just one or two occasions.
Two of the men were full time judges while the other two were part-timers, which usually means they are still in practice as lawyers when not sitting as a judge.
Staff viewing non-work related websites, including pornography, during work hours is a problem for all employers. When I had employees if I’d sacked everyone who looked at porn once or twice I doubt there would have been anybody left. If I sacked everybody who looked at non-work websites just once a day, I’d definitely have been a very lonely lawyer. There did come a time when we let an employee go because he was viewing porn at work – his was an extreme case. He was doing it in the reception area next to a 12-foot-high and 20-foot-long window that looked directly on to the high street so was potentially visible to anybody passing by. He was warned but ignored the warnings and was eventually sacked.
One of the judges, I’m not going to name him, was accused by the Solicitors Regulation Authority of failing to act with integrity and to behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in him. He admitted the charge on the basis that he accessed “inappropriate material on two occasions”. There was no suggestion that he had done any criminal act, allowed his work to suffer or done anything that would have an impact on justice.
Another judge is currently battling the Ministry of Justice’s decision to fire him on the basis that he was suffering from severe depression at the time following the breakdown of his marriage. You might think that when an employer discovers an employee is unwell the right course of action is to support that person, especially where there is no suggestion that his actions, again in private, had any impact on his work.
No reports suggest that any of the judges were warned about their behaviour or given an opportunity to correct their behaviour. In one case, the judge who accessed porn on two occasions did so TWO YEARS before his sacking – there is no suggestion in any reports I have read that he had repeated this action in the next two years.
I’m not suggesting that judges should be allowed to wank themselves silly in court or be given free passes to Pleasure Zone, Spicy Tranny and Retro Porn Hub (three of the sites of choice by the judiciary I understand) but a sensible attitude needs to be taken when dealing with people accessing lawful, non-work-related material during work time. I note that nobody has been sacked for accessing Facebook or Twitter and I bet far more judges access that every day than most of these people were looking at pornography. In short, if it weren't for a prudish attitude to porn these men would have been dealt with very differently.
A final thought: we’re always being told that the judiciary should reflect the general population, well now we know that some members of the judiciary are wankers (we all suspected it) just like some of the general population. Another box ticked, the MoJ should be pleased.