Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Thursday, September 30, 1999 Published at 18:54 GMT 19:54 UK


Judge warns against 'political correctness'

Judge Pownall is fed up of 'being bombarded from on high'

A senior Old Bailey judge has warned against political correctness "in all its horrid forms" creeping into everyday life.

Judge Henry Pownall said: "Too much political correctness destroys rather than promotes good relations of all sorts."

The 72-year-old judge made his remarks as he retired after a 45-year legal career - and two days after the Lord Chancellor launched a revised guide for judges on how to avoid any perception of racial bias and insensitivity.

[ image: Lord Irvine has issued a guide on how to avoid racial bias]
Lord Irvine has issued a guide on how to avoid racial bias
Lord Irvine claimed then the book was "not about political correctness, preaching or moralising" but was intended to inform and assist judges.

Judge Pownall, a popular and respected figure both as a barrister and later on the bench, received many tributes from colleagues at a ceremony to mark his retirement held in a packed Court One.

But he told them: "I find it sad, even disturbing, that political correctness in all its horrid forms is creeping into all our everyday lives."

He said there were those who would find prejudice round every corner, whether it existed or was intended or not.

"It is time someone says there is none of it here in this building, in any of us."

The Lord Chancellor had disclosed that five judges had been reprimanded for making unacceptable racial comments since the Government came to power in May 1987.

One of the cases referred to anonymously was that of an Old Bailey judge, who allegedly made an offensive joke at a legal dinner earlier this year.

'Special responsibility'

Lord Irvine said judges exercised "huge power" and had a "special responsibility to ensure that there can be no possible reason to think us prejudiced".

Judge Pownall said he found it sad, "even offensive, being bombarded by bumph from on high, telling me I must disclose any personal interest I may have or might have, which might be seen to have some effect in my judgement - as if I had not conformed since pupilage".

Judge Pownall was made a circuit judge in 1984 after a career at the Bar both prosecuting and defending.

He went to sit at the Old Bailey in 1988. Educated at Rugby and Cambridge, he served in the Navy between 1945 and 1948. He was made a QC in 1979.

The judge lists his recreations in Who's Who as travel, medals and medal ribbons.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Contents

Northern Ireland

Relevant Stories

30 Sep 99 | UK
Racial rulebook for judges

28 Sep 99 | UK
Abolish 'elitist' QCs say lawyers

10 Nov 98 | UK Politics
Lord Irvine angry over wigs

Internet Links

UK Court Service

Lord Chancellor's Department

The General Council of the Bar

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Next steps for peace

Blairs' surprise over baby

Bowled over by Lord's

Beef row 'compromise' under fire

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Industry misses new trains target

From Sport
Quins fightback shocks Cardiff

From Business
Vodafone takeover battle heats up

IRA ceasefire challenge rejected

Thousands celebrate Asian culture

From Sport
Christie could get two-year ban

From Entertainment
Colleagues remember Compo

Mother pleads for baby's return

Toys withdrawn in E.coli health scare

From Health
Nurses role set to expand

Israeli PM's plane in accident

More lottery cash for grassroots

Pro-lifers plan shock launch

Double killer gets life

From Health
Cold 'cure' comes one step closer

From UK Politics
Straw on trial over jury reform

Tatchell calls for rights probe into Mugabe

Ex-spy stays out in the cold

From UK Politics
Blair warns Livingstone

From Health
Smear equipment `misses cancers'

From Entertainment
Boyzone star gets in Christmas spirit

Fake bubbly warning

Murder jury hears dead girl's diary

From UK Politics
Germ warfare fiasco revealed

Blair babe triggers tabloid frenzy

Tourists shot by mistake

A new look for News Online