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Judges forced to install security in their homes due to rise in threats and harassment

Judges have become so concerned about their personal safety that thousands of pounds of taxpayer’s money is being spent to install security at their homes. 

According to Ministry of Justice figures, released under Freedom of Information requests, nearly £25,000 was spent upgrading security at the homes of four judges between 2014 and 2016. 

In the financial year 2014/15, some £20,918 was spent on safety improvements at one judge’s home.

The following year, £3,939 was spent installing security at the homes of three judges.

Earlier this month, the Judicial Attitude Survey, which is released every two years, found 48 per cent of female judges and 36 per cent of male judges feared for their safety out of court – while 51 per cent of judges fear for their personal safety while in court.

One judge, who worked in Britain’s family and civil courts, said threats such as hostage-taking, physical assaults and even death have become common.

She recounted how one man who had his children taken away had threatened to kill her and had tried to bring a knife to court. 

The threats were so severe the police visited her home to ensure she had a safety plan.

She said government cuts had left court security so weak that judges are routinely left in small rooms with the warring parties with no guards or court clerks to protect them.

She said: “The level of threats is getting worse. Incidents are common and the authorities are not even recording them.”

Professor Cheryl Thomas, co-director of the UCL Judicial Institute who coordinated the Judicial Attitude Survey, said: “That reflects the nature of the case before those judges, often very emotionally charged, difficult family cases perhaps involving the removal of a child from the family home.

“Also related to this is the increase in litigants in person, as a result of the government cuts in legal aid.

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“So as we have more and more people who need to go to court to resolve difficult, stressful, emotional family breakdown issues, who may not have access to lawyers to represent them, you have warring parties fighting it out in court.

“And that places much greater security concerns on judges in court.”

It comes as it was revealed judges are being given advice on how to protect themselves against online abuse in response to another result of the Judicial Attitudes Survey which found judges also feared for their safety online. 

Many judges are used to being verbally berated in the courtroom but now they are reporting harassment on Facebook and Twitter.

The survey found that 22 per cent of circuit judges – who try some of the most serious criminal cases in England and Wales – fear for their personal safety online. 

Some 21 per cent of Court of Appeal judges and 19 per cent of High Court judges felt the same. 

The findings come after the furore following a Daily Mail headline branding Court of Appeal judges “Enemies of the People” for telling the Government they must get parliamentary approval before triggering Article 50.

Justice Secretary Liz Truss was condemned for not stepping in to defend the judges as she took 48 hours to release a lukewarm statement about the “independence of judiciary”.

PA

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