JCIO 14/24

Date: 21 March 2024





District Judge Stephen Harmes


A spokesperson for the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office said:

The Lady Chief Justice, with the Lord Chancellor’s agreement, has issued District Judge Stephen Harmes with a sanction of formal advice for misconduct.

The Guide to Judicial Conduct reminds judicial officer-holders to be courteous, patient, tolerant and respect the dignity of all.

Following an investigation carried out under the Judicial Conduct Rules 2023, a nominated judge found that District Judge Harmes had asked a female advocate if she was pregnant in open court. He believed that she was finding the hearing difficult, so asked her this, he said, in an attempt to enquire about her wellbeing and whether she needed more time to consider her papers.

The nominated judge found that the question was a genuine error of judgment. It was not intended to offend, nor was it asked in the context of criticism or discriminatory treatment. However, it was objectively likely to cause embarrassment when asked of a female advocate, and to cause offence to others hearing it. In asking this personal question of an advocate, District Judge Harmes did not treat her with respect and dignity, thus breaching expected standards of behaviour. However, he immediately realised his error, and apologised following the hearing. The incident was short and not repeated.

District Judge Harmes offered a further apology during the investigation. He took responsibility for his conduct and expressed genuine remorse regarding the distress he caused. He also highlighted his previously unblemished record and positive reputation regarding his treatment of court users. Having considered the mitigation offered by District Judge Harmes, the Lady Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor agreed with the nominated judge’s recommendation.




Notes for Editors

Media queries in relation to the JCIO should be made in the first instance to the Judicial Press Office - telephone 020 7073 4852 or via email - press.enquiries@judiciary.gsi.gov.uk

Sanctions for misconduct by judicial office-holders are set out in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005. They are, in order of severity: formal advice, formal warning, reprimand and removal from office.

For more information about the Office, including details on how to make a complaint against a judicial office holder, you can visit the JCIO website at: Judicial Conduct Investigations website