Judges should refrain from referring to a person as “a Jew” and instead describe them in court as a “Jewish person”, according to new advice from the organisation responsible for training the judiciary.
In the latest edition of its Equal Treatment Bench Book, the Judicial College includes direction on the sensitive use of language in courts of law - and concludes that terminology once used to determine an individual’s racial or ethnic background is no longer acceptable.
In guidance to judges who are dealing with people from a Jewish background, the Equal Treatment Bench Book states: “It is better to say ‘Jewish person’ or ‘Jewish people’ than ‘Jews’ or, worse, ‘a Jew’.
“Although some Jewish people will not mind the collective reference to ‘Jews’, others will feel the terms ‘Jew’ and ‘Jews’ have been used with hostility over the years and now potentially carry negative connotations.”
Welcoming the new guidance, John Mann MP, the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group against Antisemitism, said: “It is of vital importance that when adjudicating cases, our judiciary has a full understanding of modern antisemitism and the modes and methods antisemites are using to spread anti-Jewish hate.
“I congratulate those that have worked on putting this information on antisemitism, and that on other forms of hatred, in the guidance.”
The 2015 APPG report into antisemitism had recommended changes in guidance to judges and also noted how a previous edition of the Bench Book had not included any reference to addressing Jewish indivduals or groups.
Discussing the need to avoid using insulting language, the new Equal Treatment Bench Book also states: “A person of the older white generation in the UK may feel that they are being polite by using the word ‘coloured’ rather than ‘black’, but that is an extremely outdated view and not acceptable in any way.”
The publication also makes it clear that words such as “dyke” and “queer”, which “may be used in irony” by some homosexuals, should not be used in a similar fashion by judges.
In advice for cases involving Muslim women who wear a hijab, judges are told to restrict the number of observers in court when defendants or witnesses are asked to remove their veil to give evidence.
The new book adds that judges should be attempt to avoid using words such as “immigrant”, “asylum seeker” and “refugee” unless they are certain that they are factually correct phrases to be used in front of the individual concerned
It states: “Even then, ‘immigrant’ should be used with caution, as it can sound exclusionary, especially for a person who has lived in the UK for a long time or who has gained British nationality.
“The words ‘immigrant’ or ‘second-generation immigrant’ should never be used to describe a BAME person who was born in the UK.”