Historic case of ex-magistrate challenging top judges moves forward
Richard Page was removed as a magistrate for expressing the view that it was in a child’s best interests to be raised by a mother and a father
In a hearing last week, ex-magistrate Richard Page was granted permission to take his case against the most senior judges in England and Wales to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.
Richard, 72, was removed as a magistrate by the Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice in 2016 for expressing his view that it was in a child’s best interests to be raised by a mother and a father.
The Christian Legal Centre is supporting Mr Page, who was represented in court by the highly-experienced religious freedoms barrister, Paul Diamond. In court, he argued that the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice victimised him for his deeply-held Christian and philosophical view that children do best when raised by a mum and dad in a committed, stable relationship.
Richard Page served as a magistrate for 20 years with an exemplary record until, in July 2014, he dissented in a judgment relating to an adoption by a same-sex couple. He expressed the view that it was in a child’s best interests to have both a mother and a father. He was subsequently reported for his actions, reprimanded, and forced to attend ‘re-education training’, which he duly did.
Then in March 2015, Mr Page spoke on a BBC television programme where he further explained his opinion, saying “My responsibility as a magistrate as I saw it was to do what I considered best for the child, and my feeling was therefore that it would be better if it was a man and a woman who were adoptive parents.”
This common-sense statement led to an investigation by the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office’s disciplinary panel. They recommended to the Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor that Richard should be removed from office for serious misconduct, saying that “any reasonable person” would “conclude that [Richard] would be biased and prejudiced against single sex adopters”. Richard was removed from the Magistracy on 29 February 2016 for bringing the judiciary into disrepute.
On the 16 February 2018, the Employment Tribunal upheld this decision.
Within the bounds of judicial functions
Representing Richard in court last week, barrister Paul Diamond argued that although judges are expected to show restraint while commenting in public, Richard’s remarks were well within the bounds of his judicial functions – and that he had therefore been victimised.
In legal argument before the judge, Mr Diamond compared Richard Page’s comments to those of Judge Pickles, who described the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Lane, as a “dinosaur living in the wrong age” and the Lord Chancellor, Lord Hailsham, as a “brooding Quixotic dictator” born with a golden spoon in his mouth and as “an arrogant, pompous, toffee-nosed Old Etonian”.
He also noted other members of the judiciary who publicly stated their political views, such as Lord Phillips who, in 2009, provoked concern when he voiced ‘sympathy’ for assisted suicide, shortly after having decided the Purdy v DPP case on the very same point.
Similarly, in a speech in May 2018, Lord Justice Munby, the President of the Family Division, said that he welcomed and applauded single parent, unmarried, three parent, and polygamous households; and the demise of the typical nuclear family was, by implication, not a matter of concern.
Judges are permitted to hold even ‘intolerant’ views
Her Honour Judge Katherine Tucker allowed Richard’s appeal to proceed, saying that judges have a fundamental role in democratic society. She said that judges are permitted to hold even ‘intolerant’ views that should be respected – but that there may be limits as to how they can be expressed so as not to impugn the impartiality of the courts.
Responding to the decision, Richard commented:
“I am amazed that it has taken so long to get this far. It is vital that we maintain the true independence and impartiality of the judiciary and that ordinary people like me are not excluded from it.”
Andrea Minichiello Williams, chief executive of the Christian Legal Centre which is supporting Mr Page, said:
“This is an important moment, shining a light on how justice is done in our country. Even the top judges in the land should not be beyond proper scrutiny and we are glad to see Richard’s claim go forward.
“It was always disproportionate to remove a kind-hearted and long-serving public servant like Richard from his position simply because of the way that he expressed his beliefs.
“At the Christian Legal Centre, we see many people removed from public life for expressing views. We will continue standing by Richard, and others like him, as long as it takes for the legal system, and society in general, to recognise the positive impact of Christians in our nation’s life.”
Please pray for Richard and his case
The next stage of Richard’s case should be heard in 2019.
The Christian Legal Centre is also helping him with a separate claim against an NHS trust that blocked his return as a non-executive director because of the same pro-family statements. This case is expected to be heard in January 2019.
Please pray: •That in both cases, the judge will give a fair hearing to Richard and his legal arguments
•That the judgments would protect the freedom of Christians to hold and express common-sense Christian views
•For Paul Diamond and the Christian Legal Centre as they support Richard’s cases.