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British Judges Asked To Watch Their Language
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 13, 2004

LONDON, ENGLAND--Court and tribunal judges are being advised to choose carefully the words they use when describing people in their courts and decisions.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf unveiled the Equal Treatment Bench Book on Wednesday, a guidebook that sets the standards for the treatment of race, religion, disability, gender and sexuality in the courts.

"While we must treat people equally, of course we are all different and that is part of the rub," said Lord Wolf at a news conference.

Written by the Judicial Studies Board, which trains jurists, the guidebook cautions against using language that would perpetuate stereotypes of any kind. Judges are asked, for example, to use language that is "gender neutral" such as "they", instead of "he or she", and "postal worker" instead of "postman".

In the section having to do with disabilities, judges are asked to avoid the phrases "mental handicap", "wheelchair bound", "suffers from", and "mental illness", and to instead choose "learning disabilities", "wheelchair user", "has" (a disability) and "mental health problem". They are also asked to stay away from using "normal" to describe people who do not have disabilities.

The book also reminds judges that adjectives used to describe people should not be turned into nouns. For example, "black", "disabled", "blind", or "deaf" may be acceptable until they become "the black", "the disabled", "the blind" or "the deaf" -- as if they were a distinct class.

"To use terms as labels, especially in the wrong context, is stigmatising and demeaning to the persons concerned," the section on disabilities explained.

Mrs. Justice Laura Cox, wrote in the preface: "Judges are still, deep down, human beings and creatures of their upbringing, education and experience. Inevitably we all hold different views and are subject to prejudices to varying degrees."

Equal Treatment Bench Book (Judicial Studies Board)
[Note: Scroll to the bottom of the page for links to the guide]


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