Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Posts Tagged ‘judges

Increasing diversity in the Judiciary

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There has long been a desire to see more female and black and minority ethnic (BAME) people appointed to the judiciary. The present Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas has promoted a number of initiatives designed to build on work already started by the Judicial Appointments Commission.

In April 2017, the Judicial Diversity Committee of the Judges’ Council published its latest report on progress together with – for the first time – an Action Plan for activities to be undertaken in 2017-2018.

The headline objectives of the Committee are set out in the report as follows:

In the next 12 months, we will –

  • continue our dialogue with BAME lawyers better to understand the barriers they face and identify what more the judiciary can do to support them;

  • work with the Law Society, Bar Council and CILEx to ensure that we are doing all we can to reach the broadest range of talent;

  • encourage more networking among the existing courts and tribunals judiciary;

  • run more workshops to support a greater number of candidates from under-represented groups to prepare for the selection process;

  • further develop our communications to potential candidates and those who have an interest in judicial diversity; and

  • improve the monitoring and evaluation of our initiatives.

While these aims may seem  little bland, detailed reading of the report reveals that there is intended to be an extensive programme of workshops, mentoring, outreach and other initiative designed to encourage those from groups currently under-represented in the judiciary to think about law and a judicial career.

The report also provides a link to a number of judges talking about their experience in becoming a judge – designed to inspire others to contemplate following their path. See https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/about-the-judiciary/judges-career-paths/videos-judges-talk-about-their-judicial-careers/

The report is at https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/publications/judicial-diversity-committee-of-the-judges-council-report-on-progress-and-action-plan-2016-17/

 

 

 

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Transforming the Justice System: the Prisons and Courts Bill 2017

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Enromous changes to the ways in which courts – both criminal and civil – and tribunals operate have already been foreshadowed in a number of policy documents published during 2016. Parts 2 to 4 of the Prisons and Courts Bill contain provisions that will give statutory authority to the changes that have been proposed.

The headline provisions may be set out as follows:

Part 2 creates new procedures in civil, family, tribunal and criminal matters.

It makes changes to court procedures in the Crown Court and magistrates’ courts to make processes and case management more efficient.

It allows some offenders charged with summary-only, non-imprisonable offences to be convicted and given standard penalties using a new online procedure.

It extends the use of live audio and video links, and ‘virtual’ hearings where no parties are present in the court room but attend by telephone or video conferencing facilities.

It makes provision which will apply across the civil, criminal and tribunal jurisdictions to ensure public participation in proceedings which are heard virtually (by the streaming of hearings), including the creation of new criminal offences to guard against abuse, for example by recording such stramed hearings.

It creates a new online procedure rules committee that will be able to create new online procedure rules in relation to the civil, tribunal and family jurisdictions.

It bans cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses  – in particular those who have been the subject of domestic abuse – in certain family cases.

It confers the power to make procedure rules for employment tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal on the Tribunal Procedure Committee and extends the membership of the Committee to include an employment law practitioner and judge or non-legal member.

 

Part 3 contains measures relating to the organisation and functions of courts and tribunals.

It extends the role of court and tribunal staff authorised to exercise judicial functions giving the relevant procedure rules committees the power to authorise functions in their respective jurisdictions.

It abolishes local justice areas, enabling magistrates to be appointed on a national basis, not just to a specific local justice area.

It replaces statutory declarations with statements of truth in certain traffic and air quality enforcement proceedings.

It makes reforms to the arrangements for the composition of employment tribunals and the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

It enables the High Court to make attachment of earnings orders for the recovery of money due under a judgment debt, as far as practicable, on the same basis as in the County Court.

Part 4 contains measures relating to the judiciary and the Judicial Appointments Commission.

It enables more flexible deployment of judges by enabling them to sit in different jurisdictions.

It brings the arrangements for the remuneration of judges and members of employment tribunals – currently undertaken by the Secretary of State for Employment – under the remit of the Lord Chancellor.

It rationlises the roles of  judges in leadership positions who will support a reformed courts and tribunals system. (This includes provision to abolish the statutory post of Justice Clerk; this role will continue, but those qualified to be Clerks will also be able to undertake analogous work in other court/tribunal contexts.)

It  gives the Judicial Appointments Commission the power to carry out more work (not directly related to judicials appointments) on a cost-recovery basis.

Source, Explanatory Notes to the Prisons and Courts Bill 2017, available at https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2016-2017/0145/en/17145en02.htm

Lammy Review: racial bias in the criminal justice system

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In this blog, I noted (Feb 2016) the appointment of the MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, to lead a review of racial bias in the criminal justice system. He has now published his ’emerging findings’ in a letter he has sent to the Prime Minister. His final report is expected in 2017. The Press Release states:

The review commissioned an analysis paper looking at disproportionality in the criminal justice system. One finding was that for every 100 white women handed custodial sentences at Crown Courts for drug offences, 227 black women were sentenced to custody. For black men, this figure is 141 for every 100 white men.

Among all those found guilty at Crown Court in 2014, 112 black men were sentenced to custody for every 100 white men .

The disproportionality analysis also found that, among those found guilty, a greater proportion of black women were sentenced to custody at Crown Court than white women.

 

Other notable findings highlighted today from the disproportionality analysis and the wider Lammy review include:

  • Of those convicted at Magistrates’ Court for sexual offences, 208 black men and 193 Asian men received custodial sentences for every 100 white men.

  • BAME defendants are more likely than their white counterparts to be tried at Crown Court – with young black men around 56% more likely than their white counterparts;

  • BAME men were more than 16% more likely than white men to be remanded in custody;

  • BAME men were 52% percent more likely than white men to plead ‘not guilty’ at crown court;

  • In prisons, BAME males are almost five times more likely to be housed in high security for public order offences than white men, and

  • Mixed ethnic men and women were more likely than white men and women to have adjudications for breaching prison discipline brought against them – but less likely to have those adjudications proven when reviewed.

  • 51% of the UK-born BAME population agree that ‘the criminal justice system discriminates against particular groups’, compared to 35% of the UK-born white population;

  • 41% of youth prisoners are from minorities backgrounds, compared with 25% ten years ago, despite prisoner numbers falling by some 66% in that time;

  • The number of Muslim prisoners has almost doubled in the last decade.

The next stage for the review will be to examine the reasons for these figures and to explore whether they reveal bias in the system against those from BAME groups.

It has also been announced that Lammy will – as part of this exercise – take a closer look at diversity in the judiciary and the numbers of judges from BAME groups.

The details of the emerging findings are at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/lammy-review-emerging-findings-published

 

Written by lwtmp

November 23, 2016 at 11:33 am

Determining judicial pay – current concerns

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Each year, the pay of judges is determined – along with other public sector senior appointments – by the Government, following recommendations made by the Senior Salaries Review Board.

They come to their views in the light of evidence received from government and the judiciary themselves.

In January 2016, the Ministry of Justice’s evidence to the Board was published. It provides a great deal of statistical material on the judiciary – both in the courts and in tribunals.

The Government’s position is that overall increases in judicial pay should be limited to the target that has been imposed thoughout the civil service that total pay should increase by no more than 1%.

But the MoJ concedes that there is some evidence that, especially for appointments to the High Court, the recruitment and retention of highly qualified and experienced judicial expertise is proving a bit tricky. The attraction of the knighthood/damehood that all high court judges receive on appointment and a good pension are – it is argued – no longer sufficient. The Ministry of Justice is therefore suggesting that the pay of High Court judges should be enhanced by 3% – to be funded by lower pay increases for other judicial ranks.

The Senior Salaries Review Board has not yet reached its determination for this year.

Looking ahead, the Ministry of Justice contemplates that – in light of all the changes currently taking place in the justice systems – there should be a more fundamental review of judicial pay, taking into account no doubt whether the current numbers of judicial appointments are appropriate.

I will note the outcome of the Board’s Review in due course.

The Ministry of Justice evidence is at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/492029/senior-salaries-review-report-2016-2017.pdf with a short summary at https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/492028/ssrb-evidence-pack-covering-letter.pdf

Written by lwtmp

February 20, 2016 at 12:27 pm

Training the Judges – developing the work of the Judicial College

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In December 2012 I published  a podcast with Lady Justice Hallett on the work of the Judicial College in training the judiciary. Her role was taken over by Lady Justice Rafferty in August 2014.

The work of the College has continued to develop although with reduced resources.

It still provides core induction training for all new judges – different courses depending on the type of judge concerned – criminal, civil, administrative.

But its most notable innovation has been the creation of an extensive prospectus of courses to which sitting judges may sign up. (They have to undertake a minimum amount of compulsory professional development wach year). The scope of the programme is considerable and includes a number of academic seminars bringing together judges and legal scholars. The bulk of the programme focusses on practical matters arising in different subject areas.

Information about the work of the Judicial College can be found at https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/about-the-judiciary/training-support/judicial-college/
The current prospectus (valid until March 2015) can be accessed by clicking on the link on that page.

The Equal Treatment Bench Book, published by the College is also available on-line. See https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/publications/equal-treatment-bench-book/

Written by lwtmp

October 22, 2015 at 10:00 am

Judicial Diversity statistics 2015

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Getting membership of the judiciary more reflective of the population as a whole is a challenge that the Judicial Appointments Commission has been grappling with for many years. The latest statistics, published at the end of July 2015, suggest that some progress is being made – more with women than with those from the black and ethnic minority communities.

The headline figures from the latest statistical report show:

 

  • Eight out of 38 Court of Appeal judges are women (21 per cent). In April 2014 the number was seven (18 per cent)
  • The number of High Court judges who are women remains at 21 out of 106, (now 108), (19 per cent)
  • The number of female Circuit Judges increased from 131 in April 2014 to 146 in April 2015 (going from 20 per cent to 23 per cent)
  • More than half (53 per cent) of the 60 court judges under 40 years of age are women.
  • In tribunals, 56 per cent of the 89 judges under 40 are women
  • The overall percentage of female judges has increased in both the Courts and Tribunals from April 2014 to April 2015 from 24.5% to 25.2% in the Courts and 43.0% to 43.8% in the Tribunals
  • The percentage of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) judges across Courts and Tribunals is unchanged at 7 per cent
  • 12 per cent of judges across Courts and Tribunals under 50 years of age are from a BME background
  • 36 per cent of Courts judges were not barristers by professional background (down from 37 per cent). In Tribunals the figure is 67 per cent (down less than one per cent).

For further information see https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/about-the-judiciary/who-are-the-judiciary/diversity/judicial-diversity-statistics-2015/

 

 

Written by lwtmp

July 31, 2015 at 3:05 pm