Three judges have been removed and a fourth has resigned following an investigation into an allegation that they viewed pornographic material on office computers.
The disciplinary inquiry was revealed by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office of United Kingdom, which found that there had been “inexcusable misuse” of their IT accounts.
“Three judges: district judge Timothy Bowles, immigration judge Warren Grant, and deputy district judge and recorder Peter Bullock have been removed from judicial office following an investigation into an allegation that they viewed pornographic material on judicial IT equipment in their offices,” a statement from the JCIO said.
“The lord chancellor [the justice secretary, Chris Grayling] and the lord chief justice [Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd] were satisfied that the material did not include images of children or any other illegal content, but concluded that this was an inexcusable misuse of their judicial IT accounts and wholly unacceptable conduct for a judicial office-holder.
“A fourth judge, recorder Andrew Maw, was also found to have viewed similar inappropriate material via his judicial IT account. The lord chancellor and the lord chief justice would likewise have removed Recorder Maw had he not resigned before the conclusion of the disciplinary process.”
The judges were not exchanging images or believed to be linked in any way. The JCIO declined to say whether the images had been discovered during a routine internal audit of computer files or through a different procedure.
Maw worked at Lincoln county court, Bowles at Romford county court, Bullock on the North Eastern Circuit, and Grant at the Immigration and Asylum Chamber, first tier immigration tribunal, based at Taylor House, central London. District judges earn £115,000 a year; first-tier tribunal judges are paid £113,000.
Viewing pornography is not illegal but doing so on office equipment is considered a serious act of misconduct that undermines public confidence in the judiciary. Dismissal was seen as a necessary punishment for judges whose private lives are not expected to raise questions about their impartiality – or judgment.
There is no appeal within the JCIO’s disciplinary procedure but dismissed judges can make a judicial review challenge.