Legal Analysis

Can you Criticise a Judge ?

In short, the answer is yes anyone can criticise a judge or court.

The judiciary and courts are quite rightly not immune to public criticism and comment. The rule of law applies to everyone and no one should be above the law.

Scandalising the judiciary, also known as scandalising the court or scandalising judges, was historically considered a form of contempt of court in the common law of England and Wales.

It involved any publication or speech that would undermine public confidence in the judiciary or its officers, such as judges and magistrates.

However, the Crime and Courts Act 2013 abolished the offence of scandalising the judiciary under the common law of England and Wales.

Section 33 of the Act specifically states

“Scandalising the judiciary (also referred to as scandalising the court or scandalising judges) is abolished as a form of contempt of court under the common law of England and Wales.”

Crime and Courts Act 2013 Section 33

The decision to abolish the offence was controversial, with supporters of the change arguing that it was necessary to ensure that freedom of expression was protected and that the judiciary were not immune to criticism.

While the offence of scandalising the judiciary no longer exists under the common law of England and Wales, other forms of contempt of court still apply.

These include disobedience to court orders, interference with court proceedings, and publication of material that could prejudice ongoing legal proceedings.

In conclusion, scandalising the judiciary was once considered a form of contempt of court in England and Wales, but this offence was abolished by the Crime and Courts Act 2013.

It should however be noted that libel and slander are both forms of defamation, which involve making a false statement about someone that damages their reputation.

In the United Kingdom, the laws around libel and slander are governed by the Defamation Act 2013, which replaced the previous common law rules on defamation.

Formal complaints about judges can be made at the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO).

The JCIO are an independent office which supports the Lord Chancellor and Lady Chief Justice in considering complaints about the personal conduct of judicial office holders.

The JCIO cannot accept complaints about a judge’s decision or the way a judge has managed a case.

The Law Commission published a consultation paper (no207) in 2012 entitled Contempt of Court : Scandalising the Court

Check out our articles on HHJ Farquhar, HHJ Bedford, Dodgy Judges, Do you Have to Bow to a Judge ?, Etiquette and Manners in Court and the highly questionable Sussex Family Justice Board.

We have a number of links to Free Legal Resources and Legal Organisations on our Free Legal Advice , Legal Aid and Pro Bono pages.

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Dom Watts is the founder of the Ministry of Injustice. Dom works in IT and has no legal training and is not a lawyer. You can find Dom on X or Google.

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