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Behavioural psychology made my judicial training a success

By Judge Raja Jahnazaib Akhtar

In addition to serving as a District and Session Judge, Raja Jahnazaib Akhtar is currently a judicial trainer at the Punjab Judicial Academy, the Federal Judicial Academy in Islamabad as well as the Pakistan Law College in Chakwal. He previously served as a senior civil judge and judicial magistrate. Judge Akhtar recently shared his views on judicial training with UNODC as part of the Organization's on-going work to promote judicial integrity. All opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author as an external expert and do not necessarily reflect the official position of UNODC.

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As a District Court Judge with a passion for judicial education, I recently discovered a new dimension of teaching, and with it a newfound confidence in myself. Although I had been conducting trainings of judges at the Punjab Judicial Academy in Lahore and the Federal Judicial Academy in Islamabad for several years, I had never attempted to train judges on judicial conduct and ethics. The mere idea of standing on a podium and lecturing them on ethics felt like a huge challenge.

My participation in a "Train-the-Trainer's Workshop," in UNODC headquarters in Vienna, under the auspices of the Global Judicial Integrity Network, changed my perspective and my disposition. The workshop introduced me to different training techniques and methodologies, allowing judicial trainers to handle various learning styles. After we covered the role of trainers, and that of facilitators, I began to reflect on the theory of transactional analysis; I also felt I had a better understanding of potential subtle biases, and of group dynamics. The workshop certainly expanded my field of vision, acquainting me with new horizons of judicial education.

The biggest challenge remained in converting my knowledge into reality back home, in Pakistan. Fortunately, the opportunity arose when the Honourable Director General of the Punjab Judicial Academy invited me to conduct a one-day workshop on judicial conduct and ethics for a pre-service batch of judges. My time had come to deliver, and I plunged myself into the task, applying what I had learned in Vienna about the basic five "P's": "Proper Planning Prevents Poor Presentation."

The day I dreamed of finally came, and I launched into my presentation on the Bangalore Principles of Judicial Conduct at the start of the workshop. To remind attendant judges of the documents on judicial conduct and ethics which preceded the Bangalore Principles, I duly covered the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the United Nations Basic Principles on the Independence of Judiciary.  I also introduced them to the Judicial Integrity Group, the Lusaka Statement, the Doha Declaration, and the Global Judicial Integrity Network. Finally, I elaborated on the Principles, while referring to the Commentary, and their status.

Michelle Austin, Head of the Judicial Education Team from the Judicial College of England and Wales, had pointed out during our workshop in Vienna that judges tend to learn best by doing. With that in mind, I divided the participants into six small groups, assigning one value of the Principles to each group. The groups were asked to discuss the assigned value, brainstorm, and write down its salient features on flip charts. For optimal effect, I also facilitated a "gallery walk," followed by the individual presentations on the assigned values, which were open to questions from the other groups. I contributed, every now and then, where necessary, to elaborate a little more on certain points and to respond to participants' questions. To conclude the workshop, I facilitated a discussion of case studies on judicial ethics issues.

I subsequently received feedback on random issues from individual participants, and I was gratified to notice how well they had understood the spirit of the Principles. They all said it had been a great learning opportunity and a useful exposure to the Principles, considered to be the bedrock of a successful judicial career. I also strongly encouraged participating judges to complete the interesting e-Learning course offered by UNODC.

All in all, it was an excellent workshop, and I strongly believe I ascended a steep learning curve with the Global Judicial Integrity Network's "train-the-trainers" workshop. Even though I had previously found it hard to deliver sessions on conduct and ethics, the training workshop enabled me to conduct a successful workshop myself. During my own workshop, I was conscious of the different learning styles and thus devised a training which suited the different participants. I had learned that a key to a successful training session was interaction, and I used various strategies, including those mentioned above, to engage and involve the participants. With my awareness of the difficulties of group dynamics, I also used tactics to avoid any disengagement, aggression, or inhibition. Throughout, I was able to adjust my training after receiving feedback through questions to the participants.

As a trainer, I believe that you learn every day, and that it is important to keep learning, to enjoy challenges, and to tolerate ambiguity. The "train-the-trainers" workshop provided me with an opportunity to learn and acquire knowledge which has helped me be a successful judicial educator. Likewise, the Judicial Conduct and Ethics Trainers' Manual is an equally valuable document which proved to be of great help when designing and delivering my training. I strongly recommend that judicial trainers learn these different methodologies and teaching techniques, which are applicable to different learning preferences, and which add great value and colour to any training session, as they did to mine.