A DISTRICT judge accused of touching up a member of staff is stepping down from his role due to ill health.
Michael Wood has been given an official reprimand after complaints over his behaviour towards the woman were lodged by a colleague.
It is claimed that he touched the legal adviser inappropriately and went on to make lewd comments.
The 62-year-old was told he would be allowed to return to sit at Peterlee Magistrates’ Court and the courthouse in Consett where the allegation is said to have taken place.
But, the Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC), which investigated the complaint, revealed he is on sick leave and will retire later this year because of poor health.
An OJC spokesman said: “District Judge Michael Wood has been issued with a reprimand following a complaint by a member of staff that she was touched inappropriately and that the judge made an inappropriate comment.
“The Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice found Judge Wood’s conduct to be below the standard of behaviour required of a judicial officer holder and have issued Judge Wood with a reprimand.
“District Judge Michael Wood is on sick leave and is not currently sitting.
“He will be retiring on August 31 on the grounds of ill-health as approved by the occupational health physician.”
The office declined to comment further on the incident.
Durham police said it is not aware of any police investigation into the claims.
District Judge Wood became the first full-time district judge in County Durham in 2004.
He continued to be paid during the inquiry and is on a salary of £100,000 a year.
A married father-of-three, District Judge Wood was appointed as a solicitor in 1975.
He was made a civil deputy district judge in 1993, serving for six years.
In 1998 he was appointed as a acting stipendiary magistrate, the former title for district judges, and took on his current title in 2000 on the unification of the district bench.
District judges sit alone, rather than in a group of three magistrates, who voluniteer their time to sit as a bench.