Disgraced Wakefield judge who hit wife can work in court again

James Allen QC, and below, his wife Melanie Allen
James Allen QC, and below, his wife Melanie Allen
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A DISGRACED High Court judge sacked for hitting his wife will be allowed to go back to working as a barrister, a panel ruled yesterday .

James Allen QC was dismissed by the Lord Chief Justice after being convicted of common assault following a trial last June.

The former judge's wife Melanie Allen

The former judge's wife Melanie Allen

The father-of-two and his wife, deputy coroner Melanie Williamson, had both falsely claimed bruising and facial swelling were self-inflicted.

He spent £76,000 on legal fees trying to beat the charge, and was later expelled by his chambers, the Bar Standards Board heard.

His lawyer told the hearing he now wanted to rebuild his career as a barrister in the North East.

Suspending him for three months with an order to pay £675 costs, Judge Paul Collins said the financial losses Allen had already suffered were 'not insignificant even for a successful member of the bar.'

“Mr Allen has already been heavily punished for assaulting his wife,” he said.

“These are very high burdens for any member of the bar, and must bear very heavily on him indeed.

“In those circumstances, Mr Allen is not to be punished a second time for things he has already been punished for.

“Taking into account he has already paid a very high financial penalty, and has been prevented from practising, the tribunal considers it would be appropriate to pass a very short period of suspension.

“That makes it very clear the tribunal takes a serious view of the offence, and has marked it in a way which is appropriate.'

The assault took place at the couple's home in Wakefield on February 20, 2010, after a caller rang 999 and claimed Allen was “trying to kill” his wife.

Medical experts later testified that the injuries she sustained could not have been self-inflicted.

Following the trial at Bradford Magistrates' Court, District Judge Daphne Wickham handed Allen a 12-month supervision order and said he had “lost his temper and snapped at a difficult time”.

Allan qualified as a barrister in 1973 and then practised in Leeds as a specialist in insolvency, company, and property law, before being appointed an assistant crown court recorder, a part-time judge, in 1989.

He was appointed to the High Court's Chancery Division in 2000, and was also made a Deemster of the High Court of the Isle of Man in 2008.

In written defence submissions put before the panel, Anton Lodge QC said his client had chosen not to attend the central London hearing in order to avoid being photographed by the press.

“His concern is for the well being of his two children were there to be any further publicity,” he said.

“There was considerable intrusive publicity during the trial, and this has had a harmful effect on the children, particularly on the daughter.”

Recounting the background to the assault, he said the former judge was “tired after a long drive the day before from Scotland with the children.

“He had been busy with the children on the Saturday morning and had to work and prepare for going away on the Sunday.

“He was irritated by the long time the help had been talking to his wife. An argument ensued, and he decided to leave the house.

“She did not want him to go and tried to stop him.

“He snapped at a difficult time, and struck his wife at least three times.”

The barrister added the marriage between Allen and his wife, who have two children aged 11 and seven, remained strong.

He told the panel his client's income had declined substantially since his conviction, and he would never be employed as a judge again.

“He would like to come back to the bar simply because he has confidence he can make a valued contribution to lay and professional clients in the North East,” he said.

Allen, of Woolley, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, admitted professional misconduct bringing the profession into disrepute.

A separate charge, of engaging in conduct discreditable to a barrister, was left to lie on file.