A DISTRICT judge reprimanded after a member of staff claimed he touched her inappropriately and made a lewd comment is to retire later this year.

The Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice told Michael Wood, who sits in magistrates’ courts across County Durham, by letter that his behaviour was unacceptable following an investigation.

Mr Wood, a trained lawyer, who was 61 when the allegations were made last year, voluntarily stood down from his position.

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He is now on sick leave and has informed the Office for Judicial Complaints (OJC) he no longer intends to sit as a judge, but will remain on full pay until August 31.

A spokesman for the OCJ said: “District Judge Michael Wood is on sick leave and is not currently sitting.

“He will be retiring on August 31 on the grounds of illhealth as approved by the occupational health physician.”

The incident he was investigated for happened at Consett Magistrates’ Court and was reported by the complainant’s colleagues after she told them what had happened.

The OJJ spokesman said: “District Judge Michael Wood has been issued with a reprimand following a complaint by a member of staff that she was touched inappropriately and that the judge made an inappropriate comment.

“The Lord Chancellor and Lord Chief Justice found Judge Wood’s conduct to be below the standard of behaviour required of a judicial office holder and have issued Judge Wood with a reprimand.”

Unlike magistrates, district judges, who can earn more than £100,000 a year, must have a legal background.

Judge Wood, a Newcastle University law graduate, became the county’s first fulltime district judge in 2004.

District judges have the authority to sit alone and at any magistrates’ court.

The complaint against him surrounded claims made by a legal advisor at the court in Ashdale Road, in Consett.

The OJC found that he acted inappropriately towards the woman during the course of their work.

The incident is alleged to have taken place in March, in a corridor of the court.

A spokesman for Durham Police said the force was not aware of any criminal inquiry under way.

Mr Wood declined to comment.