Senior judge handed formal warning for 'liked' pro-Palestine LinkedIn post

Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram (PA)
Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram (PA)

A senior judge has been handed a formal misconduct warning for ‘liking’ a Linkedin post calling for a free Palestine, shortly before he oversaw the criminal trial of three women who displayed paraglider images at a protest.

Deputy Chief Magistrate Tan Ikram found defendants Heba Alhayek, 29, Pauline Ankunda, 26, and Noimutu Olayinka Taiwo, 27, guilty of a terror offence at a pro-Palestinian march in central London, a week after Hamas had carried out the October 7 attack in Israel.

The judge’s handling of the case came in for criticism after he handed conditional discharges to the women and commented that they had “well learned” their lesson.

His impartiality was then called into question when it emerged he had previously ‘liked’ the LinkedIn message from a barrister which read: “Free Free Palestine. To the Israeli terrorist both in the United Kingdom, the United States, and of course Israel you can run, you can bomb but you cannot hide – justice will be coming for you.”

Judge Ikram insisted he had accidentally liked the message, and issued a statement at the time saying he did not know it had happened and it was a “genuine mistake”.

But he faced a barrage of media reports about the incident, and calls for misconduct proceedings including from former Home Secretary Suella Braverman.

On Tuesday, the Judicial Conduct Investigation Office announced that Judge Ikram has been issued with a formal warning by Lord Chancellor Alex Chalk and the Lady Chief Justice, Baroness Carr.

The judge, who sits on high profile criminal cases at Westminster magistrates court had identified himself as a judge on LinkedIn, in breach of judicial social media guidelines.

The JCIO ruling set out that Judge Ikram had “accepted that inadvertently ‘liking’ the post had raised concerns about his impartiality”, and he conceded he was not familiar with the latest rules for social media use.

“He stressed that he had not intended to ‘like’ the post, describing it as ‘repulsive’,” stated the disciplinary body.

“He stated that when he became aware of the article, he had done all he could to mitigate the impact of inadvertently ‘liking’ the post. This included contacting the Judicial Office Press Office. The judge also closed his LinkedIn account, which he had primarily used for his work as a Diversity and Community Relations judge.

“In support of his representations, Judge Ikram provided a technical report which he had commissioned. The report confirmed that he had no direct social media connection with the poster of the comment. The report also stated that it was “abundantly simple” for a LinkedIn user to inadvertently trigger a ‘like’ using their iPhone, by double-tapping an image.”

 (ES Composite)
(ES Composite)

Judge Ikram had referred himself to the JCIO in the wake of press reporting about the LinkedIn post, and the JCIO said it had received 60 complaints.

A judge who assessed his case found Judge Ikram, who was awarded a CBE in 2022 for his work on judicial diversity, had used LinkedIn to promote that work.

But she also found that the “inadvertent liking of the post had resulted in a perception of bias”, due to his high profile sitting on the pro-Palestine protester trial.

The judge found that he had “taken full responsibility and shown genuine remorse”, and recommended formal words of advice.

But the Lord Chancellor and the Lady Chief Justice decided on a tougher sanction as he had caused “significant reputational damage to the judiciary”, and to “underline their shared view on the seriousness of misuse of social media by judges”.