Law - Judicial Advice
JUDGES must avoid using phrases such as “asylum-seekers”
or “second-generation immigrants” under new guidelines
designed to prevent them from making embarrassing courtroom
Under the guidance, issued yesterday by the Lord Chief Justice,
judges will be reminded about the problems of the socially
excluded who are not, they are told, “a homogenous ‘underclass’
with a wholly alternative set of norms, values and behaviours
from those of mainstream society”.
They are also cautioned that although women
and girls comprise more than half the population, they remain
“disadvantaged in many areas of life”.
The guidance is the most far-reaching yet in its efforts to
keep judges on-message with changing social mores. It is contained
in an updated Equal Treatment Bench Book; the 1in-thick book
of advice is to be issued to every new judge on appointment.
As well as equal treatment and social disadvantage, it covers
minority ethnic issues, religion, children, disability and
Lord Woolf, Britain’s most senior judge, said: “While
we must treat people equally, of course we are all different
and that is part of the rub. Another part of the difficulty
is the fact that not only must justice be done, it must be
seen to be done, and therefore although judges are in fact
acting and behaving fairly, if they don’t appear to
be acting fairly that is just not good enough.”
Lord Justice Keene, chairman of the Judicial Studies Board,
which has published the book, said the new version included
a section on religion and more emphasis on poverty and social
“No one needs telling about the increased importance
of religion in the world we live,” he said. More attention
was being paid to ensure that judges understood about poverty
and social exclusion and “appreciated the difficulties
of people from deprived backgrounds”.
The guide advises judges not to overlook the use — unconscious
or otherwise — of gender-based, racist or “homophobic”
stereotyping as an “evidential short cut”.
They should should avoid terms such as “mental handicap”
and “the disabled”, using instead “learning
disabilities” and “people with disabilities”.
Descriptions such as black or disabled are adjectives and
should always be used as such, as in “black person”
or “disabled person”, they are told.
“However committed a judge may be to fairness and equality,
they may still give the opposite impression by using inappropriate,
dated or offensive language.”
British: must be used in an inclusive sense; avoid as synonym
for white, English or Christian.
Refugee/asylum-seekers: now associated with people with no
genuine claim and is “almost pejorative” Second/third-generation
immigrants: “likely to cause offence”
Black, disabled: say “black person, disabled person”
Coloured: “an offensive term that should never be used”
Mixed race: “slightly pejorative”
Don’t: make assumptions; project cultural stereotypes;
assume Aids and HIV-positive status indicate homosexuality.
Do: remember everyone has prejudices, “guard against