UK

Judge loses High Court fight after failing to get promotion

District Judge Kate Thomas outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, where she has taken legal action against the Judicial Appointments Commission (Yui Mok/PA)
District Judge Kate Thomas outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, where she has taken legal action against the Judicial Appointments Commission (Yui Mok/PA) District Judge Kate Thomas outside the Royal Courts of Justice in central London, where she has taken legal action against the Judicial Appointments Commission (Yui Mok/PA)

A 52-year-old woman judge has lost a High Court fight after failing to get promotion.

District Judge Kate Thomas, who oversees hearings at Walsall County Court in the West Midlands, took legal action against the Judicial Appointments Commission after failing in a bid to become a circuit judge.

She said the commission’s decision not to recommend her “for appointment to the office of circuit judge” was unfair.

The commission disputed her claim, and a High Court judge on Wednesday ruled against her.

Mr Justice Swift, who had considered arguments at a High Court hearing in London, concluded that Judge Thomas did not have an arguable case.

He heard that the Judicial Appointments Commission’s Selection and Character Committee had decided that Judge Thomas, who hears civil and family cases in Walsall and works as an assistant coroner in Kent, was “not presently selectable”.

Barrister Nicholas Bowen KC, who represented Judge Thomas, told Mr Justice Swift that there was a long-standing public concern about judges being part of an “old boys’ club”.

Kate Thomas legal action
Kate Thomas legal action District Judge Kate Thomas’s defence said that she saw herself ‘stuck’ in her current role for the ‘rest of her career’ (Yui Mok/PA)

He said Judge Thomas had been involved in a “particularly unpleasant” row with a more senior judge.

Mr Justice Swift was told that Judge Thomas had made a “bullying” allegation.

Mr Bowen said Judge Thomas thought she had been “blackballed” and was concerned about “secret soundings”.

He said she saw herself “stuck” in her current role for the “rest of her career”.

“There is a long-standing concern that it is a club – an old boys’ club,” he told Mr Justice Swift.

“It is easier if you are to enter if you are a white male, a polished professional from a certain social background.

“There is no doubt that is a concern.

“Her concern is that because she has had the gumption and courage to stand up for herself that has somehow gone against her.”

He added: “There is a real smell about this.”

Lawyers representing the Judicial Appointments Commission had disputed Judge Thomas’s complaints and argued that she should not get permission to pursue her claim.

“The impact on the claimant’s judicial career is said to be ‘terminal’,” barristers Robert Moretto and Natasha Simonsen told Mr Justice Swift in a written argument.

“But that is wrong.”

They added: “There is nothing to prevent the claimant applying again.”

The two barristers went on: “The claimant considers she has been ‘tainted’ on account of having made a bullying complaint against a colleague. But that is mere speculation.”