Monday 14 May 2012

Judicial Diversity Consultation Response

[Thanks to Paul Housego of Beers Solicitors for preparing this summary]

The Ministry of Justice response to the consultation document on diversity in the judiciary was published on Friday. There are several changes to procedures, perhaps the most important being that in future it will be the Judicial Appointments Commission that appoints deputy High Court judges from circuit judges and recorders. This may well prove important, as High Court experience is advantageous in obtaining full time appointment. The present process is not transparent, and judicial consultation is likely to help those better known to the existing judges.

The employment tribunals have proved that salaried part time working is a success, and this is to be extended to the higher courts, with the number of judges being expressed as full time equivalents.

The proposal to limit fee paid judges to 15 years will not be carried forward, as the report concludes that this would be regressive. It states that the measure would 'significantly impact specialist tribunal posts'. The councils of employment and of immigration judges submitted strong submissions opposing this proposal. There is a suggestion that salaried judges might not be permitted to become fee paid upon retirement.

There is to be further analysis of the fee paid judiciary so that the aim of 'refreshing' it to assist diversity is met. It may be that there will be an end to automatic renewal of appointments at the end of each 5 year term, and vacancies created by renewal only on merit. One might think that if the rest of the judiciary was as diverse as that of the employment tribunal there would be much less need for the consultation in the first place.

The equality assessment accompanying the report tells us that 43% of tribunal judiciary are female, and 8% have a minority ethnic background - but that statistic is impaired by there being 19% whose ethnicity is unknown. 6% state that they are disabled. Of applicants some 15% state that they have a religion other than Christian.

The press release accompanying the report refers to flexible deployment to enable individuals to move to different judicial posts more easily. This is in clause 19 and schedule 13 of the Crime and Courts Bill, also published last week, will permit deputy district judges (and those in higher courts) to sit in employment tribunals. How this may be implemented is not set out.

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