Diversity among judges to be promoted
Plans announced today by Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke will mean that more women and those from minority backgrounds will be encouraged to become judges.
New laws are to be put in place which will remove obstacles limiting diversity in the judiciary – including:
- changing the rules to extend part-time working patterns for senior judges, and
- enabling ‘positive action’ for appointments
The second of these changes means that if two candidates are completely equal in their abilities, a selection can be made on the basis of improving diversity.
The changes, which are the latest part of ongoing work to bring more diversity among judges, will not change the over-riding principle of appointments based on merit, but are intended to enable clear career progression, encourage applications from a wider talent pool and continue to create a judiciary which reflects society.
Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke said of the changes:
‘We are lucky in this country that we have the finest judiciary in the world. We intend to build on that – we will continue to recruit the very best judges but at the same time we will do what we can encourage top applicants from a diverse range of backgrounds, so that the judiciary better reflects society.’
The proposed changes have been brought forward following positive responses to a 12 week public consultation launched last November. They have now been included in the Crime and Courts Bill, which was introduced into Parliament on Thursday 10 May 2012. The measures will not take effect until such time as the Bill has been considered and approved by Parliament.
They have been included in the Bill alongside several other proposals to modernise the process for judicial appointments, designed to make it more efficient.
Other changes include:
- Having an independent lay person as chair of the selection panels for both the Lord Chief Justice and President of the UK Supreme Court, rather than a judge;
- Increasing JAC involvement in the selection and appointment of the judges who are authorised to sit as Deputy High Court Judges;
- Providing the Lord Chancellor with an increased and more effective role in appointing the most senior judges;
- Reducing the role of the Lord Chancellor in the appointment of less senior judges; and
- Introducing flexible deployment so judges can move between working in the courts and tribunals systems, to help judicial career development.
Meanwhile, other chnages whihc are to be found in the Crime and Courts Bill will include:
- Allowing broadcasting from courtrooms;
- Increasing the efficiency of fines by providing incentives for compliance, so offenders bear the cost for delaying payment, not taxpayers;
- Creating a Single County Court system and a Single Family Court for England and Wales to allow greater flexibility for the handling of cases; and
- Allowing data to be shared between the courts, tribunals service and other agencies so fee exemption applications can be checked electronically.