PC lobby bans judges from everyday words

by STEVE DOUGHTY, Daily Mail

Last updated at 10:33 13 May 2004

Our courts have surrendered to political correctness as judges have been ordered to stop using everyday words and phrases such as 'immigrant', 'Asian', 'postman' and 'man and wife'.

Terms said to be tainted with racial prejudice include 'mixed race' and 'West Indian'.

'Asylum seeker' is also frowned upon as it is said to have become associated with people without a genuine claim to be refugees.

One of the few terms that has been passed by the language police is 'black'. Its associations are "positive as a result of the political civil liberties movements in the 1960s and 1970s".

In instructions that run to more than 300 pages, judges are told to take great care to avoid offending women.

Job descriptions such as 'postman', 'chairman' and 'fireman' must be replaced by 'non-sexist' equivalents. 'Man and wife' may not be used because it 'implies an evaluation of the sexes'.

Controversially, women are said to be "disadvantaged in many areas of life". Even the simple use of 'he' or 'she' should be avoided. 'They' is preferable because it is "gender neutral language".

The instructions are contained in an expanded version of the Equal Treatment Bench Book, published by the judges' training body, the Judicial Studies Board, to "inform, assist and guide" judges and magistrates.

The board is headed by Lord Justice Keene, an Appeal Court judge and friend of Tony and Cherie Blair. He once worked in the same legal chambers as Mrs Blair and has invited the couple to use his 12th century chateau in the South of France.

The committee that produced the book includes another prominent Blairite, Judge Henry Hodge, husband of Children's Minister Margaret Hodge.

Changes endorsed

The purge of the English language was endorsed yesterday by the Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf, who warned his more junior colleagues that "if they don't appear to be acting fairly that is just not good enough".

The Bench Book called on judges to stop the reporting of information about a court witness which would identify them as homosexual or lesbian.

"Employment can be lost, families devastated and relationships damaged by unnecessary and prurient court reporting," it said. "Courts and tribunals should be aware that these factors may place additional burdens on gay and lesbian witnesses and victims, and should consider what measures might be available to counteract them."

The guidelines tell judges they should understand that transvestites may need to cross- dress in court. They are warned that it is particularly cruel to imprison such people because of the problems they are likely to face in jail.

The Bench Book also claims that one in ten of the population is gay - an estimate vastly higher than all recent evidence suggests.

Judges are given a hint that gay sex below the age of consent of 16 is acceptable. "The vast majority of young gay men are aware of their sexual orientation before 16 and seek partners of about their own age," it states, adding that there is "no persuasive evidence that boys or girls can be seduced into homosexuality".

Promiscuous gays should not be discounted as parents, judges are told. In gay relationships, it may be that "the definition of fidelity is focused more on emotional and honest behaviour, than on sexual conduct". The book adds: "Judges should be careful not to judge gay relationships according to the principles of heterosexual married life."

'Women are still not equal'

Critics called the guidelines offensive and skewed. Ruth Lea, of the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank, said: "Some of this material is outrageously offensive to women, some of it is just wrong, and the people who produce this should be exposed as the charlatans they are."

According to the guidelines, women are disadvantaged largely because many of them choose to give up work to bring up children. It is not innocuous, judges are told, to assume that women will have children and look after them - and such assumptions could affect compensation claims.

The committee chairman, Mrs Justice Laura Cox, said the statement on disadvantage to women was "open to debate".

But she added: "I am one of only four women in the Queen's Bench Division among 70 judges, so women are still not equal in some sections of society."

Criminologist Dr David Green, of the Civitas thinktank, said: "If the courts pursue truth, they must sometimes give offence or be insensitive. Justice is more important than being sensitive to people's feelings."

No comments have so far been submitted. Why not be the first to send us your thoughts, or debate this issue live on our message boards.

We are no longer accepting comments on this article.

Who is this week's top commenter? Find out now