Examination of Witnesses (Questions 212
WEDNESDAY 21 FEBRUARY 2007
RT HON SIR IGOR JUDGE, MR MIKE WICKSTEED AND MR PETER
Good morning, Sir Igor, a warm welcome to you and your colleagues.
We realise that in these early days of relationships between the
judiciary and Parliament settling down under the new dispensations,
your being here is testing new ground. We are going to be televised,
so I wonder if you would care to introduce yourself and your colleagues
for the record.
Sir Igor Judge: Certainly. I am Igor Judge,
President of the Queen's Bench Division and Head of Criminal Justice.
Mike Wicksteed is from the Lord Chief Justice's Communications
Office and Peter Farr is from the Lord Chief Justice's Press Office.
Thank you very much. Perhaps I could plunge straight into the
questioning. The Judicial Communications Office is obviously,
in this greater separation of powers, quite an important hinge
on the door, and being a hinge is potentially rather uncomfortable,
you feel quite a lot of pressure and you have to make sure that
it is possible for people to pass through the door. I just wonder
how you see your own role andperhaps this is a question
for Mr Wicksteedhow you conceive of the role of the office.
How far are you reactiveand there has been plenty to react
to in the past few monthsand how far do you think you have
a proactive public affairs function, if you like, of putting forward
the best face of the judiciary and increasing public understanding
of what they do and how they do it?
Mr Wicksteed: We structured the office to take
into account both sides of that particular equation. There are
two elements to the office, one looks after the media relations
and tends broadly speaking to be reactive, but there is a proactive
element in it, and the other element is corporate communications
or the internal website type of affairs that it looks after. With
regards to the press office part of the office, whilst a lot of
it is reactive in dealing with media requests, it is actually
there to support the judiciary. We are a judicial facility and
our prime objective is to make sure that judges, magistrates and
tribunals of the judiciary have the support they need in the communications
arena. The press office is also involved in proactive work on
behalf of the judiciary.
I wonder whether I could ask Sir Igor whether he and his colleagues,
particularly in the senior judiciary, feel that this is an important
aspect of support for your work. How far do you think the judges
know about the Judicial Communication Office and if they do know
do they think, oh good, we have got that important and valuable
support; or do they think, I wonder what on earth they do?
Sir Igor Judge: If they do not know about it
they are not reading what they are provided with; I doubt very
much if there is a judge who does not know about the Judicial
Communications Office. As to support, they recognise that there
is a limit to the amount of support that can in fact be provided,
but my reading of the situation would be that they are very pleased
with how things have gone so far, but they do recognise that there
is a limit to what the Judicial Communications Office can do and
in particular what the press office can do. I do not want to be
discourteous, but they know that we are not a Government department.
They know that everything they say is taken down and is capable
of being reported; there is no going back on the words you have
used in court, you cannot regret them and think I wish I had phrased
that rather differently and avoided tomorrow morning's headlines,
and so there is nothing that can be done about that. I have quite
strong views about how cases are reported, but the answer to your
question is yes and yes.
Could I just ask for information, Mr Wicksteed and Mr Farr, what
were your previous jobs?
Mr Wicksteed: My previous job was in external
communications in the DCA/LCD and just before I came across to
the Judicial Communications Office I was head of corporate communications
Were you a civil servant?
Mr Wicksteed: I am a civil servant, yes; I have
been since I arrived in 1990.
What about Mr Farr?
Mr Farr: Thank you, My Lord Chairman. I have
been a civil servant since 1998 in the DCA press office, or the
Lord Chancellor's Department as it then was. That was my previous
job and in fact I was dealing with the judiciary in the DCA immediately
prior to coming across to the new office.
Given that, is it right to say that your whole loyalty and commitment
now would be not to the DCA but to the Judicial Communications
Mr Wicksteed: Absolutely, there is blue water
between us and Government communication offices or Government
departments. We are a judicial facility.
I have not got absolutely clear how the press office fits inis
it simply a very important part of the JCO?
Mr Wicksteed: Correct.