Magistrate warned over 'disparaging comments' about colleagues

A magistrate has been issued with a formal warning after criticising magistrates while taking part in an expert panel.

Natalia Schiffrin participated in a live webinar hosted by the Howard League for Penal Reform (HLPR) where she was introduced as a member of the expert panel and a member of HLPR’s advisory council.

The 130-strong audience was informed that Schiffrin would be contributing to the discussion from her perspective as a magistrate. Schiffrin informed the audience that she was no longer a magistrate.

The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office said: ‘This was incorrect. While she no longer hears criminal cases, she is a magistrate on the family panel. During the discussion at the event, Ms Schiffrin made several disparaging comments about magistrates and the criminal justice system. These included casting doubt on the abilities of magistrates, referring to them as naïve and judgmental, and stating that they accept whatever prosecutors tell them.

‘She also remarked that magistrates are ignorant of the implications of sending people to custody.’

It added: ‘The declaration and undertaking signed by all magistrates on appointment states that they will maintain the good reputation of the magistracy at all times, in their private, working, and public lives.’

Schiffrin accepted full responsibility for her actions acknowledging her comments had been ‘intemperate and ill judged’. She said she had been ‘motivated by a genuine concern over the use of custodial remand’.

The JCIO said Schiffrin apologised. When she became aware of the concerns about her comments, she asked HLP to take down a recording of the event from YouTube, which had been done.

The lady chief justice, with the lord chancellor’s agreement, issued Schiffrin with a formal warning for misconduct.


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