Sometimes when I think about the the fact that one in five women has been the victim of a sexual offence in her adult life, I think about how lucky I am not to be one of them. And then I remember that I am one of them, because about ten years ago, I got flashed. This is how it went. I was living in Sheffield, walking through the underpass to the tram stop, toddler son in tow, when a man called from a few feet behind me. I realised later that he must have been waiting there for some time, standing ever so still until someone – some woman – came into view.
Let’s say you’re a senior public official with a critical role in the judicial system. Someone like a judge. And let’s say you did something really, seriously bad – so bad that you were found guilty of misconduct. You know, misconduct in the administration of law and punishment with the power to demolish lives through one bad decision. You’re this person, but no one will ever find out who you are:
[Leader of the presiding three-member tribunal] Marks and his colleagues said that if barristers had known about the behaviour which had led to the reprimand, they would have used the information to try and get an adjournment of hearings or “in some cases an application that the judge in question not hear the particular case.
“This clearly has adverse implications for the public and for the administration of justice generally,” they said.
Marks also said judges could also experience “intrusive” and overblown reporting by the media of their misconduct. This could “cause an undermining of authority generally and thus prejudice any further employment prospects of whatever sort in the wake of a reprimand”, they added.
They were “impressed” by the Ministry of Justice’s argument that judges were entitled to a “reasonable expectation of privacy”.
The Guardian, 15 June 2009
I am going to stick my neck right out here and say that, whatever implications there are in getting a judge with a proven track record of incompetence thrown off of a case, they’re probably good ones as far as justice is concerned. But, you know, reasonable expectation of privacy, people have a job to do, and it’s hardly fair if they get the press all over them every time they slip up, is it?
In the first case dealing with the privacy of internet bloggers, the judge ruled that Mr Horton had no “reasonable expectation” to anonymity because “blogging is essentially a public rather than a private activity”.
Coming down in favour of freedom of expression, the judge [Mt Justice Eady] also said that even if the blogger could have claimed he had a right to anonymity, the judge would have ruled against him on public interest grounds.
The judge added that there was “much force in the argument that any wrongdoing by a public servant, save perhaps in trivial circumstances, is a matter which can legitimately be drawn to the attention of the public by journalists. There is a growing trend towards openness and transparency in such matters.”
The Times, 16 June 2009
Keep up, people: judges are private individuals, bloggers are public, judges serve the public, and wrongdoing by public servants needs to be exposed, except when the wrongs are being done by judges, in which case it’s much better if nobody knows who they are. Sorted? Good, because apparently that head-pounding contradiction is the law now.