Third judge sacked for viewing pornography at work failed to disclose it to SRA

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31 May 2016

SRA: rebuke was appropriate sanction

SRA: rebuke was appropriate sanction

A third judge removed from the bench for watching pornography on judicial IT equipment has admitted not telling the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) about it when applying for a practising certificate shortly afterwards.

Last week the SRA issued written rebukes against two of the four judges who made headlines last year for separate incidents of accessing pornography from their offices, for which three were removed from office and the other would have been had he not already resigned.

A regulatory settlement agreement in relation to a third, Timothy Paul Bowles, who was a district judge from 2002 until he was removed from office in February 2015, was then published on Friday.

The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office said last year that though the material he viewed did not include images of children or any other illegal content, the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice concluded that “it was an inexcusable misuse of his judicial IT account and wholly unacceptable conduct for a judicial office holder”.

Less than a week after he lost his job, the agreement said, Mr Bowles submitted an application for a practising certificate in which he was asked whether regulation 3.1 of the SRA Practising Regulations 2011 applied to him – this lists matters that need to be disclosed to the SRA.

“Mr Bowles failed to disclose that, by reason of the disciplinary sanction referred to above, he was subject to regulation 3.1(a)(iv).”

As part of the agreement, Mr Bowles admitted that “by accessing inappropriate material using computer facilities issued to him by the Ministry of Justice and/or doing so in judicial time” he failed to act with integrity and to behave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in him and in the provision of legal services.

Further, by failing to disclose the sanction, he again failed to act with integrity and also failed to comply with his regulatory obligations and deal with his regulator in an open way.

The SRA said a written rebuke was an “appropriate” sanction. The agreement continued: “The SRA considers this is a proportionate outcome in the public interest because Mr Bowles’ conduct: (i) was deliberate or reckless; and/or (ii) related to a failure on his part to comply with his regulatory obligations; and/or (iii) was neither trivial nor justifiability inadvertent.”

Mr Bowles also agreed to pay costs of £1,350.

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