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Judicial Appointments & Conduct

Ombudsman
Postal Area 9.53
th
9 Floor, The Tower
102 Petty France
London
SW1H 9AJ
DX 152380 Westminster 8

PRIVATE AND CONFIDENTIAL


Mr X Yyyyyy
XY Xxxxxxx Yyyyy
Grimsby
North East Lincolnshire
AB12 3XY

29 March 2016

T 020 3334 2900


E beatrice.keyte1@jaco.gsi.gov.uk
www.judicialombudsman.gov.uk

Your ref: 15-2474

Dear Mr Yyyyyy

Your complaint
Thank you for your correspondence with my officers setting out your concerns
about the Judicial Conduct Investigations Offices handling of your complaint.
Your case was passed to an Investigating Officer who made some initial
enquiries with the JCIO. I have now completed a preliminary Investigation into
your complaint and I enclose a copy of my report. I do not believe a review is
necessary as there is no prospect of any finding of maladministration.
I realise that this will be a disappointment to you, but would like to assure you that I
considered both the handling of your complaint and the points you raised most
carefully.
Yours sincerely,

Mr Paul Kernaghan CBE

Complaint by Mr Xxxx Yyyyyy


Ombudsmans investigation Report

JUDICIAL APPOINTMENTS AND CONDUCT OMBUDSMANS REPORT


COMPLAINT BY MR XXXX YYYYYY
Introduction
Mr Xxxx Yyyyyy wrote to me on 2 December 2015 and asked me to review the
investigation carried out by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) in
relation to the complaint he had raised against District Judge Daniel Curtis (DJ
Curtis) who heard his case at Grimsby Magistrates Court on 30 October 2015
My remit
In accordance with Section 110(2) of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, I am
required to review a complaint where 3 conditions have been met, the first of which is
that I consider a review to be necessary. My remit specifically precludes me from
reviewing decisions taken by those considering conduct complaints; I can look only at
the process by which those complaints were handled. I enclose a copy of the
relevant part of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005.
Mr Yyyyyys complaint to me
Mr Yyyyyy disagreed with the JCIO's assessment of his complaint and stated his
belief that he had made a complaint, in accordance with the Rules and which
coincided with the misconduct descriptions set out on the JCIO's website, about DJ
Curtis' conduct. In particular, he disagreed with an example used by the caseworker
which suggested that a judge's bias was not a conduct matter. He also suggested
that the caseworker had incorrectly thought that his complaint related to an ongoing
high court appeal that he had mentioned.
In terms of redress, Mr Yyyyyy stated:
I am disgusted with how the justice system operates. There is simply
no accountability for judges making appallingly bad decisions with the
emphasis on bias towards the authorities. If what I've seen of it is
typical I hope that my compliant goes some way to reforming the
system which is apparently corrupt to the core. A start would be to
investigate why the judge in my case granted a liability order knowing
that a false statement had been made by the claimant with the
intention to defraud me.
My decision
I have decided that Mr Yyyyyy's complaint does not warrant a full investigation. In
reaching this conclusion, I am commenting solely on the process by which the JCIO
considered the complaint. I cannot comment on the merits of the JCIO's decision or
on Mr Yyyyyy's case.
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Complaint by Mr Xxxx Yyyyyy


Ombudsmans investigation Report
Factors taken into account
I have taken the following factors into account in reaching my decision:

Mr Yyyyyys views, as expressed in his correspondence with my office


and previously with the JCIO;

The JCIOs response to preliminary enquiries; and

The JCIOs papers regarding the handling of the complaint.

Mr Yyyyyys complaint to the JCIO


On 7 November 2015, Mr Yyyyyy submitted a complaint against DJ Curtis to the
JCIO. He summarised his concerns about DJ Curtis' conduct into four categories: a)
professional misconduct; b) criminal allegations; c) inappropriate comments /
discrimination; and d) misuse of judicial powers. Specifically, he stated that DJ
Curtis:
was guilty of professional misconduct because he had predetermined
the case in the Council's favour and therefore refused to listen to or
understand any evidence to the contrary. He suggested that DJ Curtis
had put on a show of ineptitude and incompetence in order to mask
this agenda;
was guilty of perverting the course of justice because, in his bias
towards the Council - in particular, in his acceptance of their
perspective on the High Court case and, therefore, on Mr Yyyyyy's
liability - he did not allow Mr Yyyyyy a fair hearing;
had adopted a manner that was "antagonistic and belittling", in
particular in his reference to Mr Yyyyyy's evidence as "an outburst of
political diatribe for which only five minutes made any sense". He
believed this comment to be unwarranted and tactless. He also felt
the judge had acted beyond his authority in considering irrelevant
matters and had again been biased towards the council in his
suggestion that an incident of previous maladministration was Mr
Yyyyyy's fault and in his subsequent decision to remove his statutory
entitlement to pay by installments; and
had failed to "carry out his duties in an unbiased way". He said that
the judge had acted outside his powers and breached regulations
governing council tax liability by granting the order and related
penalty. He alleged that the judge had done this to satisfy his "own
perverse gratification" and in spite of Mr Yyyyyy's proof that there was
no outstanding debt.
On 27 November 2015 the JCIO informed Mr Yyyyyy that it was rejecting his
complaint under rule 8 of the Judicial Conduct (Judicial and other office holders)
Rules 20141 as it did not contain an allegation of misconduct on the part of a judicial
officer holder.

Hereafter the Rules

Complaint by Mr Xxxx Yyyyyy


Ombudsmans investigation Report
The JCIO explained that Mr Yyyyyy's complaint related to judicial decision and case
management and that it was unable to investigate, challenge or question these
judicial functions. It noted that part of a judge's function is to weigh up the evidence
presented to them and apply the law accordingly and that in exercising this function
they have the discretion to determine the evidence they are willing to consider and
the matters they wish to explore in a hearing.
They also explained that judges are entitled to respond to parties' evidence and
noted that DJ Curtis' closing comments in relation to Mr Yyyyyy's submission would
not be a matter of misconduct as they related to his handling of the case in court.
In terms of Mr Yyyyyy's allegations of errors in law and bias the JCIO directed him to
the appeal route as the appropriate course of action and suggested he seek legal
advice.
Finally, in reference to Mr Yyyyyy's suggestion that DJ Curtis had perverted the
course of justice it noted that it could not consider criminal allegations unless a
judicial office holder had been found guilty of such an offence and been referred to it
for further consideration.
My findings
I have considered the points Mr Yyyyyy raised in order to determine whether his
complaint falls within my remit to investigate and my view is that the JCIO handled Mr
Yyyyyy's complaint properly and correctly and the decision was consistent with the
legislation and guidance as set in the Rules:

the JCIO's view that the issues raised by Mr Yyyyyy related to DJ Curtis'
judicial decision-making and case management and not his personal conduct
was consistent with its guidance. According to Rule 8 a letter can be only be
considered a complaint by the JCIO if it "contains an allegation of misconduct
on the part of a named or identifiable person holding office". It must
otherwise be dismissed. Leaflet JCI01 on the JCIO website states that:
"A Judge's role in court is to make independent decisions about cases
and their management. These are often tough decisions, and Judges
have to be firm and direct in the management of their cases.
Examples of Judges' decisions include the length or type of sentence,
whether a claim can proceed to trial, whether or not a claimant
succeeds in their claim, what costs should be awarded and what
evidence should be heard."
This sort of decision cannot form the subject of a complaint. If you are
unhappy with such a decision you are advised to seek legal advice
from a solicitor, local law centre, Citizens Advice Bureau or the
Community Legal Service to discuss whether you have a right of
appeal."
"If your complaint is not about a Judge's decision but about the
Judge's personal conduct you have the right to complain to the JCIO.
Examples of potential personal misconduct would be the use of
insulting, racist or sexist language".

Complaint by Mr Xxxx Yyyyyy


Ombudsmans investigation Report

the JCIO clearly explained why DJ Curtis' actions and decisions did not relate
to his judicial conduct and appropriately advised Mr Yyyyy that his concerns
could only be addressed via the appeal process;

it is not within my remit to consider the decision made by the JCIO to dismiss
Mr Yyyyyy's complaint or the concerns he has raised about DJ Curtis. I can
only consider the process followed in their investigation of the complaint, and
it is my view that they followed the correct and proper procedures to
determine the validity of the complaint;

I note that Mr Yyyyyy claimed that DJ Curtis' manner had been antagonistic
and belittling and particularised this in reference to the judge's response to his
oral evidence and his handling of issues surrounding the payment of Mr
Yyyyyy's council tax. I asked the JCIO to comment on whether it considered
asking for further information about this allegation and it said:
The accusation that DJ Curtis was antagonistic and belittling
comes at the opening of a discreet section within the complaint
entitled "Inappropriate Comments/Discrimination". In this
section he goes on to give examples of what DJ Curtis said,
including his concluding comments and the questions he
asked in relation to whether the complainant had a bank
account why the council tax payments were not made by direct
debit.
The caseworker has concluded, and I agree with his
assessment, that the comments cited in this section of
the complaint relate to the opening allegation that DJ Curtis
was antagonistic and belittling. There would have been no
need to ask for further particularisation of those points as, read
in the context of that whole section, Mr Yyyyyy has given
examples to illustrate the allegations he was making. The
examples given all relate to how DJ Curtis has dealt with the
proceedings before him, questions he has asked in relation to
the evidence or an expression of his opinion on the evidence
that has been presented. None of these things relate to
personal conduct on the part of DJ Curtis and were therefore
correctly rejected under rule 8.
The caseworker makes specific reference to the allegation of
antagonistic and belittling behaviour in his rejection letter. He
quotes an example that has been given to support the
allegation and explains why those actions do not constitute
misconduct. I am therefore also satisfied that Mr Yyyyyy has
received accurate and detailed reasons as to why the
complaint has been rejected."
I feel that the JCIO handled these complaints in the appropriate manner as
the allegations related to DJ Curtis' judicial decision-making and case
management, rather than judicial misconduct, and could only be considered
via the appeal process;

although the JCIO appear to have believed that the appeal to the High Court
referenced by Mr Yyyyyy was an appeal of DJ Curtis' decision, as opposed to
a related matter, cited for reference purposes only, this interpretation was not
unreasonable and did not render its investigation unsound. Indeed, it would
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Complaint by Mr Xxxx Yyyyyy


Ombudsmans investigation Report
not have impacted its assessment of the complaint as being outside of its
remit to consider; and

it would also not have affected its advice to Mr Yyyyy that, as such, it was
unable to "review a judicial decision to be able to ascertain whether it was
correct in law or made as a result of bias". It correctly advised Mr Yyyyyy that
these were matters for an appeal and that only if, on appeal, a judge was
criticised for their decision because of bias, would this then be open to
consideration by the JCIO.

I do not believe that Mr Yyyyyy has provided me with any examples of


maladministration in respect of how the JCIO addressed his complaint and, in
accordance with Section 110(3) of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, I do not
consider that a review is necessary.

Mr Paul Kernaghan
29 March 2016