Judge sacked over abusive online posts

Owen Bowcott Legal affairs correspondent
A statue of Lady Justice. Judges are told that use of social networking is ‘a matter of personal choice’. Photograph: Clara Molden/PA

A judge has been sacked for anonymously posting abusive comments on a newspaper website about readers who questioned his verdicts.

Jason Dunn-Shaw, a recorder who sat at Canterbury crown court, has been removed from the bench by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) over the posts in which he called his critics “donkeys”.

The part-time judge is also a barrister at Maidstone Chambers and a former prosecutor who specialises in criminal defence and court martial cases.

A statement from the JCIO said: “Recorder Jason Dunn-Shaw was subject to a conduct investigation for using a pseudonym to post comments (some of which were abusive) on a newspaper website about a case in which he had been a judge and another in which he had been a barrister.

“In his own name he also used publicly available social media sites to post material or not remove material which was not compatible with the dignity of judicial office or suggested a lack of impartiality on matters of public controversy.

“The lord chancellor and the lord chief justice concluded that this behaviour fell below the standard expected of a judicial office holder and have removed Mr Dunn-Shaw from judicial office.”

Dunn-Shaw told KentOnline: “I am dismayed. I have served diligently for a number of years throughout the south-east. I have been described as ‘outstanding’ by counsel, jurors and witnesses.

“The JCOI accept that comments were made on KentOnline under a pseudonym. Their other condemnation is of comments I made on the pages of Facebook friends which I believed to have been private. It seems to me unfair that the tracking of anonymous material places me where I am now.”

He later told the Guardian that the anonymous comments on the newspaper website had been left not by him but by someone else using a shared online account. He also pointed out that he “received the notice of my dismissal on the same day that the JCIO decided to take no action against another judge who called a defendant a cunt”.

Dunn-Shaw said he would be appealing against the ruling to the judicial appointments and conduct ombudsman.

The guide to judicial conduct says the “use of social networking is a matter of personal choice”. It warns about the dangers of bringing the judiciary into disrepute.

In a separate ruling, the JCIO reprimanded Simon Newell, a circuit judge based at Preston combined court, after a report claimed he had harassed a bar owner who banned his dog from a pub.

The JCIO statement said Newell was “subject to an investigation into his conduct following an article published on the Sun newspaper’s website.

“The article set out a dispute the judge had had with a bar owner over a dog and described the judge’s behaviour. The lord chancellor and lord chief justice considered that Newell displayed serious errors of judgment and failed to fully acknowledge the implications of his actions or any wrongdoing. They concluded that this behaviour amounted to serious misconduct and have issued Newell with a reprimand.”

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