Magistrate removed from office after falling asleep at trial

A magistrate was removed from office after he fell asleep on the bench, causing an assault trial to collapse, the office for judicial complaints said.

Former city councillor John Harrison claimed he was just resting his eyes during the first day of the trial at Lancaster magistrates' court in March last year.

But an investigation was launched after the mother of the 17-year-old defendant, who cannot be named for legal reasons, complained that the chair of the bench nodded off and an application to this effect was made by defence solicitor Darren Halsted.

The inquiry found the behaviour of Harrison, who had been a magistrate since 1997, "risked bringing the magistracy into disrepute" and he was removed.

In a statement, the Office for Judicial Complaints said: "Following a complaint about Mr Harrison's conduct in a Lancaster youth court a conduct investigation panel found that his behaviour risked bringing the magistracy into disrepute and recommended Mr Harrison be removed from judicial office.

"The Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice directed that an independent review body should consider Mr Harrison's case.

"Following its inquiry, the review body agreed with the panel's findings and recommended Mr Harrison be removed from the magistracy.

"The Lord Chief Justice and the Lord Chancellor accepted the recommendation to remove Mr Harrison from the magistracy."

(Published by The Guardian – September 27, 2010)

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