Top judges face demands to declare business links on MPs-style public register to avoid bias accusations
- Senior members of the judiciary were recently found to have business interests
- Judges are expected to withdraw – or recuse – themselves from hearing any case in which they could face a conflict of interest or accusation of bias
- But there is no register detailing when judges have recused themselves and why
Judges are facing demands to declare their financial interests on an MPs-style public register (file image)
Judges are facing demands to declare their financial interests on an MPs-style public register to avoid accusations of bias.
The call comes after The Mail on Sunday found three senior members of the judiciary had business interests, including in potentially sensitive areas.
There is no suggestion of any wrongdoing by them.
Searches of Companies House records show that Supreme Court judge Lady Arden is a partner in Nomina No 189, a limited liability partnership paid to underwrite insurance on the Lloyd’s of London market.
Founded in 1688, Lloyd’s is steeped in tradition but has experienced controversies that have resulted in court battles.
Accounts show Nomina No 189, in which Lady Arden has a controlling interest, had an income of £508,200 in 2017, making a loss of £103,600 after costs and insurance payouts.
It made a £12,673 profit in 2016 and £26,952 in 2015.
A Supreme Court spokeswoman said the judge ‘does not hold any commercial directorship’ and ‘does not as a result engage in any activity which might undermine, or be reasonably thought to undermine, her judicial independence or impartiality.
She recuses herself and discloses any conflict of interest in accordance with the duties of her office, as with any other investment.’
Appeal Court judge Lord Justice Fulford is a member of a film financing partnership established by the Ingenious Group.
Set up in 2004, Mole Films LLP allowed investors who are higher rate taxpayers to legitimately defer tax liabilities for 15 years. In 2012, some members made a second investment, which led to them being pursued by HMRC officials for outstanding tax payments.
It is understood Lord Justice Fulford did not take part in the second investment and was never contacted by HMRC.
Meanwhile, former Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge was a director of TV firm Beaufort Production during his period of office from 2008 to 2013.
High Court and Appeal Court judges are banned from being the directors of commercial companies, although there is an exception for those ‘concerned with the management of family assets’.
There is no ban on being a partner of an LLP, in which the exposure of its partners to financial liabilities is capped.
A separate code of conduct for Supreme Court justices says there are ‘severe restraints’ on a justice’s ‘involvement with any commercial enterprise’.
Judges are expected to withdraw – or recuse – themselves from hearing any case in which they could face a conflict of interest or accusation of bias.
However, there is no register detailing when judges have recused themselves and why.
Legal reform campaigner Roz Harrison has now launched a petition for a register on the UK Parliament website and her @LeaksLegal Twitter feed.
She said: ‘A Register of Interests would increase public confidence in the judiciary.’
A judiciary spokesman said the ventures by Lord Justice Fulford and Lord Judge concerned the management of family assets.
He added: ‘There are longstanding and detailed principles which guide how judges approach possible conflicts of interest.’
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