DCA launches judicial complaints office

The Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA) last week announced the beginning of a new era of judicial transparency with the establishment of an Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC) and a judicial appointments and conduct ombdusman.

The OJC will handle judicial discipline, while the ombdusman will review the OJC’s handling of complaints about judicial conduct and investigate judicial appointment complaints.

The DCA has launched a recruitment campaign for the ombudsman. The successful candidate will not be connected with the law or the judiciary and will be paid £50,000 annually for working two days per week.

Along with the new Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC), the OJC and the ombudsman will begin work in April 2006.

The Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer said the ombudsman will help ensure the transparency of the judicial system.

Last year, the Judicial Correspondence Unit, which currently deals with judicial complaints, received 250 allegations of judicial misconduct. Only 11 of those were referred for judicial investigation.

Falconer and Lord Woolf, the Lord Chief Justice, said it was unlikely that the results of any investigations made following a complaint about a judge would be made public.