Okay, hands up who knows me in “Real Life”. (Whatever that means.)
Yep, quite a few of you. Well, if you know me in real life then one of the things you’re quite likely to know about me is that I’m a Magistrate.
Well, count yourself lucky. If the only way you know I’m a Magistrate is because of something you’ve read on here, or on Twitter or Facebook or anywhere else online, I hereby issue a directive requiring you to forget you ever read that. And, indeed, that you ever read this.
An email came yesterday: we’ve been issued some guidance…
Blogging by Judicial Office Holders
This guidance is issued on behalf of the Senior Presiding Judge and the Senior President of Tribunals. It applies to all courts and tribunal judicial office holders in England and Wales, and is effective immediately.
A “blog” (derived from the term “web log”) is a personal journal published on the internet. “Blogging” describes the maintaining of, or adding content to, a blog. Blogs tend to be interactive, allowing visitors to leave comments. They may also contain links to other blogs and websites. For the purpose of this guidance blogging includes publishing material on micro-blogging sites such as Twitter.
Judicial office holders should be acutely aware of the need to conduct themselves, both in and out of court, in such a way as to maintain public confidence in the impartiality of the judiciary.
Blogging by members of the judiciary is not prohibited. However, officer holders who blog (or who post comments on other people’s blogs) must not identify themselves as members of the judiciary. They must also avoid expressing opinions which, were it to become known that they hold judicial office, could damage public confidence in their own impartiality or in the judiciary in general.
The above guidance also applies to blogs which purport to be anonymous. This is because it is impossible for somebody who blogs anonymously to guarantee that his or her identity cannot be discovered.
Judicial office holders who maintain blogs must adhere to this guidance and should remove any existing content which conflicts with it forthwith. Failure to do so could ultimately result in disciplinary action. It is also recommended that all judicial office holders familiarise themselves with the new IT and Information Security Guidance which will be available shortly.
Any queries about this guidance should be directed to [name removed] at Judicial Office – Tel: 0207 [removed] Email: [removed].
I’m well aware in posting this on here I’m directly going against the guidance it contains, but simply wanted to let my readers know what has been issued so that they know why you won’t see me mention being a Magistrate online any more. I can – sort of – understand why the guidance has been issued. I’m not particularly happy about it, but as a Magistrate I’ve sworn to uphold the law regardless of whether I agree with it, and I’ll treat this guidance in the same way.
You’ll see that the guidance even goes so far as to instruct me to “remove any existing content” that conflicts with it. Well, a quick search indicates that I’ve only ever mentioned it on here about eight times in five years (now nine!), In due course I will probably comply and go back and edit all those posts that mention it. Including this one. Which I guess I’ll need to delete. Pretty fruitless, really, as all the posts will still exist in caches and backups somewhere.
I’m still waiting to hear how the excellent Magistrate’s Blog, written anonymously by Bystander, will respond. If he decides to call it a day it will be a sad loss.
As an aside, when I first saw the email, and read that guidelines had been issued on blogging, I wondered whether the judiciary were going to instruct us to refrain from blogging and using social networks at all. If that had been the case I would have seriously considered resigning from the bench.
I’m glad that I’ve not needed to consider that.
(PS: Introduction for new visitors here.)