Magistrate’s research into defendant leads to formal warning

A magistrate has been given a formal warning for misconduct after he researched a defendant in a case. According to a disciplinary notice, Grant Roberts, sitting in a panel of three, conducted independent internet research to assist him in reaching a decision.

A barrister complained after he was advised by the court’s legal adviser that the case would be moved as a result of Roberts’ actions.

The Judicial Conduct Investigations Office said Roberts apologised for his error and took full responsibility.

Roberts said his error ‘had come from a lack of knowledge and understanding as he was a relatively inexperienced magistrate’. He accepted that he would have been informed about conducting independent research during his induction training but did not recall it at the time.

Guidance issued to magistrates states it is not appropriate for magistrates to conduct internet research into cases they are to hear, on issues arising within cases or into people involved in cases as to do so could compromise judicial impartiality. 

A JCIO spokesperson said: ‘Following an investigation, a conduct panel of the south east region conduct advisory committee found that Mr Roberts’ actions had damaged his integrity and standing and that of wider magistracy and therefore amounted to misconduct.

‘Mr Justice Keehan and the lord chancellor agreed with the conduct panel’s findings and issued Mr Roberts with a formal warning.’