Judge who banged her head on a desk during a court hearing was being 'sarcastic and condescending', investigation rules

Gabriella Swerling
Judge Judith Hughes, who oversees cases in London, was the subject of an investigation - PA

A “sarcastic and condescending” judge who banged her head on her desk after a member of the public appeared before her at a family court hearing has been reprimanded.

Judge Judith Hughes, who oversees cases in London, was the subject of an investigation following a complaint to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO).

Detail of the complaint has been outlined in a statement published on the JCIO website.

A spokesman said in the statement that Judge Hughes, who had been speaking to a litigant not represented by lawyers, had also been accused of banging her hand on her desk in frustration.

He said Lord Chancellor David Gauke and Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett had decided that her behaviour did not "demonstrate the standards expected of a judicial office holder" and issued "formal advice".

The spokesman added that Judge Hughes had "expressed regret".

"The Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor have considered a complaint that Her Honour Judge Judith Hughes spoke to an unrepresented party in a family case in a sarcastic and condescending manner and banged her hand on her desk in frustration during a hearing," the statement said.

"They took into consideration that Her Honour Judge Hughes took responsibility for her actions and expressed regret but decided that her behaviour failed to demonstrate the standards expected of a judicial office holder and have issued Her Honour Judge Hughes with formal advice."

The statement did not say where or when the hearing was or who had complained.

In 2017 Judge Hughes made news after drawing up a six-page document detailing what contact a two-year-old girl should have with her separated parents following a "tortuous" family court dispute.

The judge said the girl's parents would share her care and spelled out how they would text each other if the youngster was unwell and would "facilitate" Skype, FaceTime, telephone calls, or text to confirm "safe arrival" if the girl travelled abroad.

Arrangements were documented in a written order after a private family court hearing in London.

Details of the case emerged after the girl's mother challenged decisions made by Judge Hughes and asked a High Court judge to examine the case at a public appeal hearing.

Mr Justice Baker, who oversaw the appeal at a hearing in the Family Division of the High Court in London, backed Judge Hughes's decisions and dismissed the woman's challenge.

He said "proceedings" had taken a "tortuous course" and that Judge Hughes had, understandably, "got a little bit irritated about some of the arguments, which were going backwards and forwards".