Judge's claim he was victim of 'sub-conscious' racial discrimination has case against MoJ dismissed

Max Stephens
·2-min read
Ministry of Justice
Ministry of Justice

A judge who made a woman cry in court with “needless and humiliating” questioning has had a racial discrimination case against the Ministry of Justice dismissed.

Judge Nawal Kumrai, who is of Indian descent, claimed he was the victim of 'sub-conscious' racial discrimination when he was investigated for his questioning of a woman giving evidence in his courtroom.

An employment tribunal threw out his claims after ruling his treatment would not have been any different if he was a white judge.

Two other senior judges investigated Judge Kumrai after he carried out 'repetitious, needless and humiliating'  questioning on a woman in an appeal case in 2015 about her bowel problems.

The courtroom was left 'shocked' and 'uncomfortable' when Judge Kumrai 'unnecessarily' made her repeat information about her bowel movements three times, 'reducing her to tears', the tribunal heard. 

But when Judge Hugh Howard investigated the woman's complaints, known only in reports as TS, and raised it with Judge John Aitken, Judge Kumrai was 'offended and upset' and considered it 'unlawful'.

Kumrai, who was a full-time judge in the first-tier tribunal sitting in Watford,alleged that as it was evident to Judge Howard that he is of Asian origin, 'the flaws in the process were such that there must be an explanation other than simple error and the only sensible explanation was that race had been a factor'.

The grounds to his case were 'based firmly on the proposition that the discrimination at work here was subconscious'.

However, employment Judge Snelson dismissed the case, ruling that the outcome would have been the same if it was a white judge involved.

A tribunal report said: "So far as we are aware, Mr Kumrai has never acknowledged even the possibility that his conduct of the hearing... might have merited some criticism.

"Neither directly nor indirectly has TS has received from him anything that could be termed an apology."

Judge Howard was found to have 'supported diversity' and 'combated discrimination' in his role and Judge Aitken didn't even know Judge Kumrai.

Concluding the tribunal, Judge Snelson said: "Stepping back and reviewing all the evidence before us we are unable to identify anything suggestive of any element of racial bias underlying the behaviour of Mr Howard or Mr Aitken.

"In our view, the core logic of Mr Kumrai's case on discrimination does not withstand scrutiny.

"The central thesis that Mr Howard wanted in some way to punish Mr Kumrai (and race was something to do with that motivation) is belied.

"Taking Mr Howard first, we are satisfied that, in a comparable case of a judge with a name suggesting a white Caucasian heritage, he would have proceeded exactly as he did in Mr Kumrai's case.”