The government conceded that ministers and senior judiciary members owe judges a duty of care
A Crown court judge in the UK has elicited a watershed admission from the government following claims of bullying from senior judiciary members.
The Law Society Gazette reported that HHJ Kalyani Kaul QC had filed a suit against the Ministry of Justice, Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC and Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett of Maldon citing instances of judicial bullying and negligence. The three parties were vicariously responsible because they owed a duty of care to create a safe work environment for judges, she claimed.
In a watershed admission, the government conceded to the court, which was led by Queen’s Bench Master Roger Eastman, that the parties did in fact owe a duty of care to Kaul and to other judges, and were vicariously responsible for the behaviour of judges and court staff towards another member of the judiciary.
“If negligence is found on the part of those judges against whom allegations of negligence are pleaded in the particulars of claim, or on the part of the other defendants, then the Crown will be liable to the claimant in damages,” the government said in a statement. “'The Ministry of Justice hopes that by making the admission now, it narrows the issues in dispute, saves expense to both parties and reduces the burden on the court’s limited time and resources.”
Kaul’s legal representative, former UK Law Society President David Greene, applauded the government’s statement.
“My client is naturally happy that this concession is now made albeit two years into the case. She took a stance at great emotional and personal expense, for all judges to ensure she and they work in a safe environment and that the government takes responsibility for it,” he said. “We may well see a flood of claims by judges now emboldened to speak out against bullying and mistreatment.”
According to Kaul’s suit, she had complained about the “unprofessional and rude” conduct of barristers during a long trial and had been rebuffed by senior judges. Moreover, she alleged that a judge had “grabbed her forcefully by the arm, shouted at her, undermined and oppressed her,” the Gazette wrote.
The bullying incidents had driven Kaul into depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress, she claimed.
One of the defence barristers Kaul called out has been charged with misconduct by the Bar Standards Board, and the Crown Prosecution Service determined that the conduct of another did not meet the necessary standards. Rulings against the remaining barristers are still pending.