Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Developing judicial diversity

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The Advisory Panel on Judicial Diversity published an important report in February 2010, which made 53 recommendations for improving the selection of those appointed to become judges. The Ministry of Justice Press release summarised the main points:

“The panel made 53 recommendations, finding that:

  • the diversity of those entering the profession is significantly greater than that of those who have the experience to apply for judicial office. Therefore, delivering a more diverse judiciary is not just about recruiting talent wherever it may be found, but also about retaining talent and enabling capable individuals to reach the top.
  • the Judicial Appointments Commission should revise its criteria for assessing merit, to support and underline with greater clarity its commitment to diversity.
  • Selection processes should be open and transparent, promote diversity and recognise potential, not just at the entry points to the judiciary but for progression within it to the most senior levels.
  • appraisal, owned and run by the judiciary, should be consistently implemented throughout the judiciary. This was particularly requested by women and black, Asian and minority ethnic judges.
  • the Judicial Studies Board should evolve into a Judicial College offering courses in ‘Developing Judicial Skills’.
  • the legal profession, including law firms, should actively promote judicial office amongst those who are currently not coming forward, and, together with the judiciary, support and encourage talented candidates from under-represented groups to apply.
  • a proactive campaign of mythbusting should be undertaken as many of the perceived barriers to diversity are not reflected in practice.
  • there should be no quotas or targets for recruiting under-represented groups. But improvements must be made to the way data is captured and shared, so that there can be systematic evaluation of what works and progress can be monitored against agreed benchmarks.”

The Panel also recommended the creation of a judicial diversity taskforce to oversee progress. The report can be found at http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/judicial-diversity-report.htm.

The idea of the Judicial Studies Board becoming a Judicial College is not in fact a new one. And in the context of its work with tribunals it has long offered instruction on ‘judgecraft’. Applying this to the rest of the judiciary is very welcome – and recognises that judging is a craft that can be taught – not an innate ability that some have and others do not.

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Written by lwtmp

March 18, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Posted in Chapter 4, Chapter 9

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