Magistrate issued formal warning after speaking to defendant over the phone during a hearing

Howard Tate hears cases in West Yorkshire. Credit: James Hardisty
Howard Tate hears cases in West Yorkshire. Credit: James Hardisty
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A magistrate who had a telephone conversation with a defendant during a court hearing has been reprimanded.

Howard Tate, who hears cases in West Yorkshire, was the subject of a complaint to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office.

A spokesman for the office says a High Court judge has issued a formal warning after an investigation.

He said Mr Tate spoke to a defendant who had not attended the hearing.

"Whilst hearing a case in open court, Mr Tate had used his personal phone to speak twice to a defendant who had not attended the hearing," said the spokesman, in a statement published online.

"He also made comments about his actions to colleagues which were not appropriate in tone."

The spokesman said Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb issued the warning on behalf of the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett, and Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland.

He added: "Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb and the Lord Chancellor felt the action had potentially affected the fairness of the proceedings in open court, but took into account Mr Tate's lengthy service as a magistrate without any conduct issues and his acceptance of the errors made."