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Case of ex-magistrate challenging top judges moves forward

Date:5 DEC 2018
Former magistrate Richard Page has been granted permission to take his case against the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice to the Employment Appeal Tribunal. Page is accusing the most senior judges in England and Wales of victimising him for his view that children do best when raised by both a mother and a father.

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Page, 72, was removed as a magistrate by the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice in 2016 for expressing his view that it was in a child's best interests to be raised by a mother and a father. 

Adoption by same-sex couple
Page served as a magistrate for 20 years until, in July 2014, he dissented in a judgment relating to an adoption by a same-sex couple. Expressing the view that it was in a child's best interests to have both a mother and a father, he was reported for his actions, reprimanded, and urged to attend 're-education training', which he did.

In March 2015, Page spoke on a BBC television programme where he further explained his opinion, saying that "my responsibility as a magistrate as I saw it was to do what I considered best for the child, and my feeling was therefore that it would be better if it was a man and a woman who were adoptive parents."

This statement led to an investigation by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office's disciplinary panel. They recommended to the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor that Page should be removed from office for serious misconduct, saying that "any reasonable person" would "conclude that [Mr Page] would be biased and prejudiced against single sex adopters." 

Page was removed from the Magistracy on 29 February 2016 for bringing the judiciary into disrepute. On 16 February 2018, the Employment Tribunal upheld this decision.

Representing Page, barrister Paul Diamond argued that although judges are expected to show restraint while commenting in public, Page's remarks were well within the bounds of his judicial functions - and that Page had therefore been victimised.

In a legal argument before the judge, Diamond compared Page's comments to those of Judge Pickles, who described the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane, as a "dinosaur living in the wrong age" and the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham, as a "brooding Quixotic dictator" born with a golden spoon in his mouth and as "an arrogant, pompous, toffee-nosed Old Etonian."

He also noted that other members of the judiciary who publicly stated their political views, such as Lord Phillips who, in 2009, provoked concern when he voiced ‘sympathy’ for assisted suicide, shortly after having decided the Purdy v DPP case on the very same point.

Similarly, in a speech in May 2018, Lord Justice Munby, the President of the Family Division, said that he welcomed and applauded single parent, unmarried, three parent, and polygamous households; and the demise of the typical nuclear family was, by implication, not a matter of concern.

Are judges permitted to hold 'intolerant' views?
Her Honour Judge Katherine Tucker allowed Page's appeal to proceed, saying that judges have a fundamental role in democratic society. She said that judges are permitted to hold even 'intolerant' views that should be respected - but that there may be limitsas to how they can be expressed so as not to impugn the impartiality of the courts.

Responding to the decision, Page said: "I am amazed that it has taken so long to get this far. It is vital that we maintain the true independence and impartiality of the judiciary and that ordinary people like me are not excluded from it."