Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What is the JCIO?
A: The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) is an independent statutory body that supports the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice in dealing with complaints about judicial misconduct.
Q: What does “judicial misconduct” mean?
A: Judicial misconduct refers to the personal behaviour of a judicial office holder (judge, magistrate, tribunal member or coroner). Examples could include use of offensive language such as a racist remark, misuse of social media, or conviction for an offence.
Judicial misconduct does not include judicial decisions or case management. The only way to challenge a judicial decision is to appeal to a higher court.
Q: Does the JCIO have disciplinary powers?
A: No. Only the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice (or a senior judge delegated to act on his behalf) can make findings of misconduct and issue a disciplinary sanction to a judicial office holder.
Q: How many people work at the JCIO and what is their status?
A: The JCIO has a headcount of 15 staff. We are civil servants employed by the Ministry of Justice, assigned to the Judicial Office. We are operationally independent of government, including the Ministry of Justice and the rest of the Judicial Office.
Q: How many complaints does the JCIO receive per year?
A: About 2,000. However, only a very small proportion are complaints about judicial misconduct. Most are about judicial decisions and case management, and therefore fall outside the JCIO’s remit.
Q: How many members of the judiciary receive a disciplinary sanction per year?
A: Typically, around 50 of the 2,000 complaints the JCIO receives per year result in a finding of misconduct and disciplinary action.
Q: How are complaints considered?
A: The process for considering complaints is set out in statutory rules and regulations. You can find an outline of the process for dealing with complaints about courts judiciary and coroners here. Complaints about magistrates and tribunals judiciary are considered by the relevant magistrates’ advisory committee in the first instance. Complaints about tribunals office holders are investigated by the relevant chamber president in the first instance.
Q: What disciplinary sanctions are available to the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice?
A: The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 sets out the available sanctions for judicial misconduct. They are, in order of severity, formal advice, formal warning, reprimand and removal from office.
Q: Does the JCIO publish information about the complaints it receives?
A: In line with the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justices’ publication policy, statements about complaints resulting in a disciplinary sanction are published on our website. Statements about sanctions below removal from office are deleted after one year. Statements about removal from office are deleted after five years.
We do not publish details of complaints that are outside our remit or dismissed with no finding of misconduct. However, statistical information about the complaints we receive is available in our annual reports.
Q: Can somebody who is unhappy about the JCIO’s handling of a complaint complain about it?
A: Yes. The independent Judicial Appointments and Conduct Ombudsman can consider a complaint about how the JCIO has handled a complaint.
Q: On what basis does the JCIO publish information about complaints?
A: Section 139 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 sets the conditions for publication of information about disciplinary cases. In accordance with the Act, the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice are jointly responsible for decisions about the publication of such information.
Q: Can the JCIO give more detail about a case than is included in the statement on its website?
A: No. We are unable to comment further in relation to any specific case.
Q: Why do statements published by the JCIO not include more detail.
A: The level of detail published balances the desire to be open and transparent with the need to protect the confidentiality of complainants and people who have given evidence, and rightly expect not to be identified.
Q: Why are statements removed from the website after a certain period of time?
A: This is the established policy on publication. As with the level of detail in statements, the duration of their publication aims to strike a balance, in this instance between openness and transparency and fairness to the judges referred to in the statements.
Q: Why can’t I be sent a statement that has been in the public domain but is no longer online?
A: It would not be fair to the judges concerned to provide copies of statements that have been deleted in accordance with the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justices’ policy.
Q: Can the JCIO confirm whether it has received a complaint about a judge?
A: The JCIO does not answer speculative inquiries about complaints. If we are asked about a specific allegation regarding a specific judge we can confirm whether we have received a complaint.
Q: Why does the JCIO not say how many complaints have been made against a judge or what they were about?
A: Receipt of a complaint does not necessarily mean that the complaint raises a potential issue of judicial misconduct. Judges are entitled to expect that information about complaints made against them that are outside the JCIO’s remit or dismissed with no finding of misconduct are not published.
Q: If the JCIO has accepted a complaint for consideration can it provide additional information about it?
A: No. The JCIO does not comment on ongoing complaints.
Q: Are judges always told about complaints against them?
A: Only if the complaint raises a question of potential judicial misconduct. The Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice have agreed that it is not necessary to notify judges of complaints that are outside the JCIO’s remit or are dismissed without the need for further investigation.