Senior judge reprimanded for ‘judicial bullying’ of barristers

Lord Justice Lewis has been reprimanded for ‘judicial bullying' (JCO)
Lord Justice Lewis has been reprimanded for ‘judicial bullying' (JCO)

A senior High Court judge who rejected a challenge to the government’s controversial Rwanda deportation policy has been reprimanded for “judicial bullying”.

Lord Justice Lewis was handed a formal warning for misconduct over his handling of an unnamed court hearing, after he made “excessive” interruptions and “became increasingly harsh and rude” towards barristers arguing the case.

The judge apologised during the course of the hearing for his behaviour and admitted he “allowed his frustrations at the hearing to show”, the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) said when revealing the misconduct finding.

The JCIO has not identified which hearing the misconduct took place at or when the incident happened.

Lord Justice Lewis was called to the Bar in 1987 and was appointed a Lord Justice of Appeal in October 2020.

Together with Mr Justice Swift, Lord Justice Lewis oversaw a legal challenge to the government’s Rwanda deportation plan in hearings in September and October last year. They ruled in the government’s favour, but their decision was successfully challenged in the Court of Appeal and the case is now heading for a final battle at the Supreme Court.

 (Tom Pilgrim/PA Wire)
(Tom Pilgrim/PA Wire)

A JCIO spokesperson said: “The Lord Chief Justice, with the Lord Chancellor’s agreement, has issued Lord Justice Clive Lewis with a formal warning for misconduct.

“The Guide to Judicial Conduct reminds office-holders to be courteous, tolerant and respect the dignity of all. They should also ensure that their conduct maintains and enhances public confidence in the judiciary.

“Following an investigation carried out under the Judicial Conduct (Judicial and other office holders) Rules 2014 by a senior judge appointed by the Lord Chief Justice, Lewis LJ was found to have behaved in a rude and hostile manner towards counsel in a hearing. Whilst not all the complaint allegations were made out, the nominated judge found that Lewis LJ had intervened excessively in counsel’s submissions, throughout the hearing, in a manner which became increasingly harsh and rude and to the extent that it constituted judicial bullying.

“Lewis LJ accepted that he had allowed his frustrations at the hearing to show and reflected that he should have handled matters differently. He offered his sincere apologies at the hearing.

“The Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor agreed with the nominated judge’s recommendation. In deciding to issue Lewis LJ with a formal warning, they took into consideration the mitigation offered by Lewis LJ, including his apology and commitment to learn from the experience and adjust his behaviour in future.”

JCIO investigations and misconduct proceedings take place in private.