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I suppose it is welcome that the JCIO is publishing fuller details of its decisions, but an inevitable problem with that is that fuller details can simply lead to further questions.

For instance, what exactly is it that Judge Ikram has been given the warning for?

We know that he identified himself as a judge on LinkedIn, which he probably shouldn’t have, though as The Times has pointed out today that isn’t unusual.

The nominated judge seems to have found that the “like” was purely accidental (although that isn’t explicitly said). There is, however, a formal finding that it was not “deliberate or the result of carelessness”.

So what was the warning given for? Self-identification as a judge is one thing but was the warning for “self-identification and accidental liking of a post”. A warning would usually suggest a conscious change of behaviour was necessary, but how can that be if the liking was not even careless?

Perhaps it is the case that accidental conduct is capable of “undermining public confidence”, but that is not an entirely comfortable position, still less when more senior individuals step in to increase the sanction.

The reference to “extraordinary number of complaints” isn’t entirely satisfactory either. It sort-of works that a large number of complaints suggests “significant reputational damage”, but that seems to be setting a dangerous precedent that for some complainants the more complaints there are the better.

Presumably this won’t be the last word on judicial use of social media since people have indicated that they are complaining about (former) Master McCloud’s use of social media. I’m not sure what will come of that but there were indications that Master McCloud was preparing a vigorous defence, and may bring into play questions of freedom of expression that were not deployed by or did not fit the facts of Judge Ikram’s case.

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A very interesting comment which sees to me - as a layman not lawyer to raise questions about the JCIO and transparency. In this context how can it be acceptable that the JCIO, the body that investigates complaints about judges’ misconduct, can be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act?

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The social media guidance tells judges: “You should not use your official title and it is most unlikely to be appropriate to disclose the fact of your judicial role on any platform or account with unrestricted public access." So that's a pretty clear breach.

And why was he even looking at a "repulsive" feed? There's no suggestion that this was part of his judicial duties.

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Thanks Joshua

Yes - self-identification on social media a clear breach, but he’s not the only one, and that by itself seems unlikely to have justified the sanction.

“Repulsive” feed - maybe he should have been nowhere near it but there’s been no suggestion he was disciplined for accessing or viewing it. That would be a different argument.

It may well be the right result, but I don’t think it entirely holds together in the summarised form that is the only thing we have access to.

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Fair enough. Let's hope these statements become more informative as time goes on — although I suspect that their subjects would not agree.

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Judge Ikram appears to have liked a post in respect of which he received a formal warning. He then gave three women he had convicted conditional discharges. Is that appropriate and if not might there be grounds for an appeal against sentence albeit it’s probably too late now and a more severe sentence would probably spark a riot.

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No. As I said at the time, a sentence that was passed in the magistrates’ court cannot be referred to the Court of Appeal under the unduly lenient sentence scheme: https://rozenberg.substack.com/p/po-scandal-wheres-the-bill

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I humbly agree with Alisdair as to the need for a tidying up - to put it mildly- with the aim of achieving parity of treatment. Greater transparency and appropriate speed as contrasted with the judicial near equivalent of visits from the “men in grey suits” are decidedly at least a partial antidote to burgeoning public distrust of our judiciary and so, as far as these two decisions go, I detect some kind of movement in the right direction. As a devotee of Joyce Vance’s contributions, I- so to speak- gaze on appalled at the antics of Justices Alito and Thomas. A serious Democratic initiative by in particular Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Dick Durbin has been torpedoed by their Republican “colleagues” but then one has to start somewhere. At least, at least, here in the U.K. something has been done and with a reasonable attempt at openness.

Not so very long ago I remember vividly, when in a grandstand seat as a defending Junior, where there had been an example of a grave judicial-shall we say?- indiscretion by a much liked senior Judge, where we at my then practice had with huge reluctance concluded that we had had no honourable option but to report it to the Circuit’s then Senior Presiding Judge who - no doubt rightly-had then notified the LCJ. I say this in favour of what had then transpired: it was exceedingly swift with- forgive my repetition of the phrase- men( and probably also women) in grey suits having been a feature. The result? A premature retirement. There endeth the transparency. But, rather to the surprise of some cynics, something robust had been done. No, I did not like it then and I would hate to think that the like might be happening even now. There were quite a number of our professional colleagues - of both our own profession and the bar- who had disapproved of what we had done but to this day I am wholly unrepentant. On a much lighter note a canny colleague quite some years back now, during his final address in a case with defence potential, had stopped in mid- flight on spotting that one of three Justices had fallen asleep. The Chair had - uncomfortably- asked if he had had anything to add. My colleague’s response? “Not to this Court, your Worships”, whereupon he had resumed his seat. The outcome? Yes- an acquittal.

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In your list of sanctions, it is worth noting again the (now) unfair discrepancy between senior judges and others. Puisne judges and above can only be removed by an address of both Houses of Parliament. Lesser judges can be removed by the Lord Chancellor and Lady Chief Justice. A lesser judge in this instance would include a circuit judge and even a senior circuit judge such as a Resident or Honorary Recorder. This distinction cannot be justified any longer and it means here Picken J could not have been removed even if they wanted to.

Both cases are extraordinary and some years ago would have led to them quietly retiring. It's difficult to see how you can command confidence with litigant if you've been publicly told your integrity has been compromised, which is the most important characteristic of a fair and impartial judge.

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Thanks, Alisdair. I thought about mentioning the security of tenure enjoyed by High Court judges and above. But I concluded that if it ever came to that — and it nearly did, not so long ago — the judge would resign (as he did) or, failing that, parliament would approve removal.

I agree that the finding on integrity is very serious. It may be significant that the statement about Picken published this week is dated 16 May.

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