HL Deb 31 January 2005 vol 669 cc3-4WA
Lord Chadlington

asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether (a) membership of a fox hunt, or (b) membership of the Countryside Alliance is fully compatible with service in office as a member of the judiciary or magistracy; and whether such membership would place constraints on a judge's freedom; and [HL714]

Whether any members of the judiciary or magistracy have been given any guidance, advice or instruction since 1997 about the compatibility of membership of campaigning organisations with service in office as a judge or magistrate by (a) the Lord Chancellor; (b) the Department of Constitutional Affairs, and (c) any other Government department; and, if so, whether any such advice referred specifically to Amnesty International, the Countryside Alliance or involvement in any campaign against a ban on foxhunting. [HL715]

The Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor (Lord Falconer of Thoroton)

Copies of guidance to the full-time judiciary on outside activities and interests were placed in the Libraries of both Houses on 15 June 2000. That guidance superseded any earlier guidance. No separate guidance has been issued to the judiciary on membership of specific organisations or involvement in specific campaigns. The guidance provides that judges must ensure that while holding full-time office they conduct themselves in a manner consistent with the authority and standing of a judge. They must not, in any capacity, engage in any activity which might, undermine, or be reasonably thought to undermine, their judicial independence or impartiality. Where a judicial office holder has any doubt about the application of the principles contained within the guidance he or she is advised to seek advice from a senior colleague, head of division, the Lord Chancellor or his Permanent Secretary.

The handbook for newly-appointed justices of the peace published in 1991 advises magistrates always to be alert to the danger of doing anything which would bring the magistracy into disrepute or which would seriously compromise their judicial impartiality. No separate guidance has been issued on, membership of campaigning organisations. If magistrates indicate they will not enforce the criminal law they cannot continue as magistrates.