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Sunday, July 25, 2010

British judge faces anti-semitism probe after his anti-Israel instructions

From the Daily Mail:
A senior judge was under investigation yesterday after being accused of making anti-Semitic remarks in court that may have swayed his jury into acquitting a group of protesters.

Judge George Bathurst-Norman was said by critics to have persuaded a jury to clear a group of campaigners who smashed up a factory making parts for Israeli warplanes.

Summing up in the criminal damage trial, he compared Israel to the Nazi regime and accused the country of ignoring international law.

The judge added that 'there may be much to be admired' about the chief protester, and that 'in the last war he would probably have received a George Medal'.

The Office for Judicial Complaints, which deals with objections over the conduct of judges and magistrates, confirmed that an inquiry into how Judge Bathurst-Norman handled the trial of five political activists at Hove Crown Court in June is under way.

Its findings will be considered by Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge and Lord Chancellor Kenneth Clarke, who have the final say on any disciplinary action.

A number of complaints are said to have accused the judge not just of anti-Israel rhetoric but specifically of anti-Semitism.

Describing evidence shown in court, Judge Bathurst-Norman told the jury that he could only describe the 'horrific' events shown as 'scenes which one would rather have hoped to have disappeared with the Nazi regimes of the last war'.

In his summing up, he gave his backing to the evidence of one defendant, Ornella Saibene, a former Greenham Common activist.

The judge said: 'She took us through the horrors, and there really is no other word for it than horrors, that emerged in the press and on the news and the footage as to what the Israelis were doing in Gaza.

'You may think that perhaps "Hell on Earth" would be an understatement of what the Gazans endured.'
We discussed this judge here, here and here.

While I believe that some people complaining about the judge would have accused him of anti-semitism, the problem is that he disregarded any pretense of objectivity and instructed the jury how to rule. Bringing up anti-semitism is not the strategy to employ - even if the judge compared Israelis to Nazis.

It is possible that the Daily Mail played up that aspect of the complaints, and lets hope so. The judge should be investigated and punished for his egregious disregard for the law in the courtroom.