I must write about something other than John Hemming MP and his causes soon, or else I’ll become an obsessed man, and start suing everyone, or something.
But before leaving the subject, I must pick up on something written by Christopher Booker on the Telegraph website over the weekend, in a piece critical of Sir Nicholas Wall, President of the High Court’s Family Division. In case you need reminding, Sir Nicholas is the judge who last week published details of the case involving Vicky Haigh, who John Hemming had named in Parliament; he’s also the judge who sharply criticised John Hemming MP for his conduct in another case, RP v Nottingham City Council, in 2008.
Christopher Booker tells us that John Hemming complained to the judicial ombudsman about Sir Nicholas. The reference to a forged document strongly suggests the complaint related to the RP case, in which Hemming claimed a solicitor had stooped to forgery.
In 2008, in another case, he was complained about to the judicial ombudsman by John Hemming MP, after he had witheringly dismissed Hemming’s arguments that a crucial document in the case was forged. “I find it not only unacceptable but shocking,” Wall ruled, “that a man in Mr Hemming’s position should feel able to make so serious an allegation without any evidence to support it. In my judgment it is irresponsible and an abuse of his position.”
Mr Hemming presented the ombudsman with several pages of transcript showing how he had produced lengthy evidence for his claim, set out in meticulous detail.
Christopher Booker merely tells us the fact that Hemming made a complaint, of course: he tells us nothing about the outcome.
In fact the Judicial Appointments and Conduct Ombudsman does not rule on complaints about judges’ conduct, in spite of the title of the office. The guidance provided at the JACO website makes clear that it only considers complaints about the handling of complaints to the Office for Judicial Complaints. The ombudsman will only consider a case if it’s already been decided by the OJC, and the complainant is not satisfied.
So assuming – as I do – that Christopher Booker is right about John Hemming going to the ombudsman, it must follow that he complained initially to the OJC. We know nothing, again, about the outcome: the complaints process is confidential, and the OJC routinely relies on a combination of section 139 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2000 and section 44 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 in refusing requests for information about them. But the OJC does issue investigation statements in some cases, and the list goes back to April 2008 – before the RP case. The earliest tells us about a reprimand issued to a High Court judge, for instance. But there is no investigation statement relating to Sir Nicholas Wall.
So we can’t tell whether Hemming’s complaint was dismissed out of hand by the OJC, or on the advice of the nominated judge without the need for investigation, or whether it got any further than that.
But I suspect that, had it succeeded, either John Hemming himself or perhaps Christopher Booker would have told us so. Taking that together with the lack of any investigation statement, and the fact that Hemming remained dissatisfied and applied to the ombudsman, I am led to conclude that John Hemming’s complaint against Sir Nicholas Wall was dismissed.
I am as always happy to be corrected by anyone who knows better.