UK barrister and part-time judge Constance Briscoe has been charged with intending to pervert the course of justice after allegedly forging the signature of an Australian judge on an official register.
Southwark Crown Court heard that Briscoe signed her fellow judge Deborah Taylor out of a two-day continuing professional development course so that Taylor could catch a flight to pick up an award in Perth, The Guardian has reported.
The course points were necessary for judges to be able to continue practising.
Earlier, in her evidence in chief, Briscoe, 55, said Taylor was a friend – they had both had babies at the same time in hospital. She said Taylor had been voted judge of the year by WA’s female lawyers, which she said “was the equivalent of our Oscars”.
Briscoe has denied three counts of intending to pervert the course of justice, claiming she had permission to sign out her friend Debbie from the course.
Police learned of the Judicial College incident after finding an email on Briscoe’s computer sent to Taylor on 15 May 2012, which read: “I signed in for you and registered your CPD points. No one noticed you were missing.”
When Briscoe learned that police were investigating this incident, she rang the college and told them Taylor had left the course 15 minutes early with permission because she had to fly back to Australia to collect an award, the court heard, and she had permission to sign her out.
The prosecution said Taylor’s flight to Perth meant she missed the whole second day of the course, and suggested it was not true that Briscoe had permission to sign her friend out. If so, why had she written in her email that “no one noticed you were missing”?
“That’s completely absurd. She did have permission and I with her,” replied Briscoe.
The prosecution claimed the incident showed a parallel with Briscoe’s behaviour in a high-profile case involving jailed former Cabinet Minister Chris Huhne, in which she is alleged to have lied to police about her contact with the media and altered her witness statement in an attempt to hide her dishonesty.
The case continues, leaving Folklaw to ponder judicial ethics – and the dramatic downfall of former Federal Court judge and civil libertarian Justice Marcus Einfeld, whose good name was tarnished and his Order of Australia rescinded when he lied under oath about a $77 speeding ticket.