Sunderland magistrate steps down over Facebook probe

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A MAGISTRATE has stepped down amid allegations she discussed a court case on a social networking site.

Jean Brown, of Washington, is under investigation by court chiefs in London following remarks made on Facebook.

Mrs Brown, a long-serving member of the bench at Sunderland Magistrates’ Court, voluntarily stepped aside from hearing cases until the matter is dealt with.

It is alleged Mrs Brown was contacted back in April by a woman on Facebook who posted a message on her profile page to say she was annoyed at the progress in a family court case involving the CSA.

In the conversation, posted between April 21 and 22 it is believed, Mrs Brown asks “who is dealing with this” before asking for the case number.

She then allegedly posts: “In next week will see what’s on file.”

Mrs Brown’s Facebook profile has since been deleted.

Discussing cases in any form – either directly or online – is strictly forbidden for all judicial office holders, and also goes against the oath all magistrates must swear by when they take to bench.

A section of the oath highlights how magistrates must “do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm without fear or favour” – meaning they must not show favouritism.

During more than two decades of service Mrs Brown has been an approved chairman sitting in on adult, youth and family court hearings.

The matter is now being looked into by the Judicial Office, which is based at the Royal Courts of Justice, and it’s believed a final decision has to be agreed by the Lord Chancellor.

Mrs Brown – who has 23 years of experience as a magistrate – is understood to be deeply upset by the lengthy investigation.

It’s not known what form of punishment she might face if she is found to have breached any duties but it’s not believed any criminal proceedings will take place.

Northumbria Police confirmed they are not involved in the case.

A spokesperson for the Judicial Communications Office said: “The magistrate has not been suspended - she voluntarily refrained from sitting.

“The investigation is ongoing. The investigation is into her judicial conduct.”

The Magistrates Association and Her Majesty’s Justice Service for Northumbria refused to comment.

Mrs Brown declined to comment.

Twitter: @SunderlandEcho