Judicial officers giving testimonials

[72-000] General guidance

The Commission has received some communications expressing concern about some judicial officers who have given evidence or provided written material by way of testimonial which has been used in court as character material and enquiring whether the Commission would be prepared to indicate its views on the matter. The Commission has considered the implications of a judicial officer so involving him or herself. It believes there may be some measure of confusion and that it would be desirable for it to express general guidance for all judicial officers. In so doing, the Commission wishes to emphasise that it is concerned to ensure that the reputation of individual judicial officers and of the courts generally is not liable to the risk of attack.

Generally speaking, the Commission expresses the view that judicial officers should not give character evidence nor issue written testimonials directed to the same issue. This general statement is subject to two qualifications:


there would be no objection to a judicial officer so acting when it would be unjust or unfair to deprive the beneficiary of special knowledge possessed by the judicial officer; and


there would be no objection to a judicial officer providing a person who had been a member of the judicial officer’s personal staff with a reference relating to employment.

Cases have come to the notice of the Commission in which references from judicial officers have been tendered. These have been regarded as a real source of embarrassment to the presiding officer who, on occasions, has had to ignore or reject the opinions there offered. It would of course, be the more so if upon giving evidence viva voce the witness were cross examined adversely. The Commission therefore indicates that it considers it desirable that all judicial officers should adhere to these views and that if any occasion arises which provides doubt, the individual should seek the advice of the head of the jurisdiction.