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'Race jibe judge must be suspended'

by Lester Holloway
26/10/2004

RACE GROUPS are furious over the decision not to suspend a race jibe judge who called a black witness a “n****r.” But despite outrage at the remark, he has been told 'carry on judging.'

Not out of the woods: Judge John Brimelow
Not out of the woods: Judge John Brimelow

Judge John Brimelow sparked disbelief when he called a black witness James Boylam a “n****r in the wood.”

But the decision of the Lord Chancellor's department not to suspend the north Wales deputy district judge while an investigation takes place has added insult to injury, campaigners claim.

Karen Chouhan, chief executive of black-led human rights group The 1990 Trust, has written to the Lord Chancellor, Lord Charlie Falconer, to protest at the free reign given to Brimelow to carry on judging.

In a letter to Lord Falconer, Chouhan wrote: “We are disappointed that Judge Brimelow has not been suspended while an investigation into his remarks proceeds. A suspension would have helped restore the confidence of Black communities in the criminal justice system after a remark that has caused widespread outrage.

Lord Charlie Falconer, the Lord Chancellor
Lord Charlie Falconer, the Lord Chancellor

“It is within your gift to suspend Judge Brimelow, and a suspension not have meant he had been found guilty.

“Currently we seem to have the worst of all worlds – a judge whose reported remarks are seen as racist, but who is allowed to sit in judgement of future black defendents and witnesses before an investigation has concluded.”

46-year-old Judge Brimelow caused offence at Wrexham County Court while presiding over a case brought by the partner of James Boylam against a woman in a dispute over £1,000 worth of plants.

Judge Brimelow was reported to have described the case as 'black and white' before pointing to Boylam and saying “you are a n****r in the wood.” “I thought at first my ears had deceived me”, Boylam commented.

'I couldn't believe it': James Boylam
'I couldn't believe it': James Boylam

He added: “When he said 'n****r in the wood' I just couldn't believe the words I was hearing. I felt my treatment was patronising and belittling.

“Everyone I have told about this is outraged. Judges are supposed to go for training. The days when Battle of Britain pilots called their black Labradors n****r are long gone.”

Simon Woolley, head of Operation Black Vote which runs a magistrates shadowing scheme aimed at boosting numbers of Black people in the judiciary, said he was “deeply shocked” at the judge's remark.

“I am deeply shocked that any judge of his standing should be using such offensive terminology. It is also disappointing having made these comments that the authorities don't see fit to suspend him while an inquiry is ongoing. We need to show a consistent message to Black communities that racism is any form will not be tolerated.”

Your Shout!

Have Your Say

Boylam lost the original case before Judge Brimelow, but after protesting she was granted a new hearing which Boylam won.

When a transcript of the original case was requested, Boylam was told the tape was found to be blank. Judge Brimelow has declined to comment until the investigation is complete.

 - quote - I just couldn't believe the words I was hearing. I felt my treatment was patronising and belittling. Everyone I have told about this is outraged.  - unquote -
James Boylam

Chouhan said: “Use of the N word it is shocking to hear such an outdated and racist comment. The use of the N word is never acceptable whether in a turn of phrase or not. It is a term which is intended to dehumanise and has been consistently used to precede a flogging, beating, or hanging.

“Even today if you hear the word from white people it is likely to be followed with violence.

“It is particularly poignant in the case of Stephen Lawrence whose white attackers preceded his murder with the words 'what, what, n****r'.”

The government's Department of Constitutional Affairs confirmed that judges of Brimelow's standing would have undergone race relations training. A DCA spokesperson said: “We take all complaints of racism extremely seriously and investigates thoroughly all such complaints.

“Investigations into the complaint by Mr James Boylam's solicitor are still going on and the Lord Chancellor will be responding to the complainant once a conclusion has been reached.”

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