Judge sues Ministry of Justice for discrimination after claiming decision to bar Lutfur Rahman was ‘racist’

Peter Herbert sues Ministry of Justice over alleged race discrimination
Peter Herbert is bringing a racial discrimination case against the MoJ.

A judge is suing the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) for race discrimination after it recommended he should be formally warned over remarks he made about the treatment of former Tower Hamlets Mayor Lutfur Rahman.

Peter Herbert, chair of the Society of Black Lawyers, said at a rally in Stepney last April that “racism is alive and well and living in Tower Hamlets”, in reference to the disgraced mayor’s five-year ban from public office.

The guide to judicial conduct states that judges should “refrain from any activity, political or otherwise, which could conflict with their judicial office or be seen to compromise their impartiality”.

A complaint was made about Mr Herbert and the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office (JCIO) launched an inquiry.

Mr Herbert lodged his action for race discrimination and victimisation in the central London employment tribunal on Monday, claiming black employees of the courts are disproportionately subjected to disciplinary procedures.

Lee Jasper, chair of the London Race and Criminal Justice Consortium and spokesperson for Mr Herbert, told the East End Citizen: “We suspect there is disproportionate number of investigations into black employees, be they judges, criminal prosecution officers or court staff.

“We believe this is part of a trend. There are white senior judges who have committed much more serious offences who have not been requested to voluntarily suspend themselves or subjected to the same inquiry. They are judged to a different standard.”

Mr Herbert said he was not able to comment on the remarks he made about Rahman. However, when asked why he was bringing the case against the MoJ, he said: “It is important that people are treated equally in democracy. Whether you’re a judge or whoever you are. You have to receive equal treatment under the law.”

‘Racism is alive’

Peter Herbert OBE is a human rights barrister who also sits as a recorder and part-time employment judge and immigration judge.

During a rally in Stepney last April, Mr Herbert made comments about the decision to ban Lutfur Rahman from holding public office for five years.

He said in the speech: “Racism is alive and well and living in Tower Hamlets, in Westminster and, yes, sometimes in the judiciary.”

He added: “So don’t let anybody fool you that just because you have a judgment in a court it is somehow sacrosanct.

“It is not. Do not put your faith in a system that is not designed for you. You are not regarded as British. You are not regarded as part of here or now.”

A complaint about the speech was made to the JCIO, which recommended that Herbert receive a written warning for commenting on politics. A decision on whether to issue the warning has not yet been reached.

A spokesperson for the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office said: “The JCIO investigates the conduct of judicial office holders under processes laid down by parliament and the outcome is decided jointly by the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice.

“Until that point, proceedings remain confidential. If there is a finding against a judicial office holder, it is always published.”


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