8% of judges report facing bullying and/or harassment

Courts: Judges generally happy with their jobs

Around one in 12 judicial office-holders have experienced bullying and/or harassment in the last 12 months, while 5% reported that they had faced discrimination, according to research published yesterday.

The predominant type of bullying behaviour was “overbearing leadership, undermining of work and consistent unproductive criticism”, according to the judicial wellbeing survey.

This was followed by misuse of position (38%), ridiculing and demeaning language (35%), and being excluded from conversations, meetings etc (27%).

A perhaps surprising 9% said they had been subject to malicious rumours.

Some 4,525 judicial office holders – 21% of the entire bench – completed the survey, of whom approaching half were magistrates and 76 were in the Court of Appeal and High Court.

In all, 8% said they had faced bullying and/or harassment.

Asked who was responsible for bullying, 28% said their leadership judge, 18% a judicial peer, 18% a magistrate and 11% a senior judicial office holder – also, 6% of judicial office holders said they had been bullied by a litigant and 5% by a member of the public.

Of those who were bullied, 72% said they had also experienced harassment, predominantly on the basis of gender, race, disability or age.

The majority did not report what had happened, mostly because they feared repercussions, but also because they “managed it in my own way”.

Most respondents said they would challenge bullying and/or inappropriate behaviour if they saw it happening and felt comfortable speaking to a leadership judge/bench chair about it – but only 64% believed action would be taken as a result.

The report said: “Work has already begun to provide more support to judicial office holders who have experienced bullying and/or harassment, a review of existing judicial grievance procedures is taking place and 14 trained nominated judicial office holders were appointed in June 2021 to provide peer support for judicial office holders raising concerns.

“A separate judicial whistleblowing policy was launched in June 2021 and the wellbeing survey data will inform plans to tackle instances of bullying and harassment across all areas of the judiciary.”

The survey was conducted in the wake of the first judicial health and wellbeing strategy, a four-year plan launched in February 2021.

The results painted a largely positive picture in terms of wellbeing, with the vast majority of office-holders satisfied with a working life they felt was worthwhile – 18% said Covid had had a significant impact on their wellbeing.

Some 15% said they were extremely or significantly stressed at the time of taking the survey, while 45% reported having mental symptoms of stress and 48% behavioural symptoms in the previous year.

However, non-work-related issues (41%) and Covid (34%) were the main causes of stress, with judicial workload next on 24%.

The large majority of judges said they worked in courteous, supportive and inclusive environments where people worked together and treated each other with respect.

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