MANY OF Britain's judges are racist and sexist, cannot grasp technical detail and are particularly sleepy after lunch, a survey of expert courtroom witnesses has found.
Others simply come across as foolish or out of step with modern culture and there was even one instance where a judge was found to be drunk during a trial. The responses from 150 doctors, engineers, linguists and other experts provide a rare insight into the workings of Britain's courts.
In one case a judge substantially reduced a compensation claim, arguing that the claim-ant, a professional woman, did not match the earnings potential of a man because she would stop working to have children. In another, a judge asked the barristers to interpret what a West Indian man was saying, despite the expert witness describing the man's testimony as "crystal clear".
On two occasions expert witnesses protested that judges were asleep. One expert witness, Dr Stephen Gladwell, complained that in an adoption hearing the judge was clearly drunk. "Luckily, with encouragement from the barristers and myself, he came to the right decision," Dr Gladwell said.
But the overriding picture is one of a judiciary unable to follow complex, and sometimes not so complex, evidence. One judge in a textiles case stopped proceedings after three days to ask: "Can you tell me ... what is a yarn?" Another witness, Dr Hazel Walter, said one judge, who had been trying rape cases for 20 years had, in 1996, never heard of the term "post- traumatic stress disorder".
Janet Porter, an expert giving evidence in a sexual assault prosecution, said a judge had asked whether an X-ray viewing box emitted X-rays. Of the 150 experts' accounts of …