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Administration of Justice: Complaints

Volume 472: debated on Wednesday 27 February 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice how many complaints about the judiciary in (a) Essex and (b) England and Wales were received by his Department and its predecessors in each of the last five years; how much it cost to investigate each complaint; what the budget for 2007-08 is for investigating such complaints; what legislation governs complaints against the judiciary; what amendments have been made to this legislation since its enactment; what recent representations he has received on this matter; and if he will make a statement. (189009)

With regard to the number of complaints about the judiciary in England and Wales received in the last five years, I would refer the hon. Member to my written answer of 31 January 2008, Official Report, column 568W, to the same question asked by the hon. Member for Bexleyheath and Crayford (Mr. Evennett). Recording of complaints is not categorised by geographical area, I regret therefore I cannot provide information on the number of complaints for Essex.

My Department does not currently hold information on the cost of investigating individual complaints over this period. The budget for the Office for Judicial Complaints for 2007-08 is £1,141,305.16. I am encouraging the OJC to improve its data. The OJC is moving towards a system of unit costs for the forthcoming financial year, which will provide an indicative figure for the cost of each investigation for 2008-09.

The relevant legislation governing handling of complaints against members of the judiciary is: sections 108 to 121 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005; the Judicial Discipline (Prescribed Procedures) Regulations 2006, which are made under section 115 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005; and the Judicial Complaints (Tribunals) Rules 2006 and ‘the system for handling magistrates conduct, pastoral and training matters’, which are both made under section 117 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005.

No amendments have been made to this legislation since its implementation, but a Review of the Judicial Discipline Regulations 2006 is currently in progress.

I have not received any recent representations about the overall system for handling judicial complaints, but I do from time to time receive letters from hon. Members which forward individual complaints about judicial office holders from their constituents, or which seek information about the handling of a constituent’s complaint. Any complaint about a judicial office holder forwarded to me by an hon. Member is dealt with according to the provisions of the Judicial Discipline Regulations 2006.