Diversity group publishes report on judicial appointments

11 Mar

A report aimed at overcoming barriers to a judicial career and widening the pool of candidates for appointment to the Bench has been published.

The paper is the work of a Diversity Steering Group, which includes representatives from the Faculty, the Law Society of Scotland, the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland (JABS) and the Judicial Office for Scotland.

It builds on a conference held in Edinburgh last year at which keynote speeches were given by Lord Carloway, the Lord Justice Clerk, and Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger. The conference had considered "Merit and Diversity - Compatible Aspirations in Judicial Appointments?"

Sir Muir Russell, of JABS, said: "Everyone agrees that judicial appointments should be made on merit. However, we know that there is increasing importance placed on diversity of representation, not just in employment but on the boards of companies and in public appointments.

"We set out to examine what, if anything, should be done to increase diversity in judicial appointments at our conference last year. Today's report highlights the issues raised and provides an excellent platform for further discussions with individuals and organisations. We are keen to get feedback on the report and about the areas of work we should undertake to help increase diversity.

"It is essential that our judges are respected for fairness and justice in their decision making, regardless of their gender or background. That said, we believe that we need to tackle existing barriers, whether real or perceived, and consider what can be done to encourage a wider pool of candidates to consider applying for judicial posts.

"There are many talented individuals who have high levels of knowledge and experience and have the right skills to be able to make sustainable judicial decisions, but who may not think that a judicial post is for them for any number of reasons, from wanting to work part-time to being unaware of the routes to a judicial post, and don't realise the opportunities that there are for them.

"We also want to dispel some of the myths that persist around judicial appointments, such as the idea that you need the right connections or there is a preference for advocacy skills over decision-making skills. In reality, it is an independent selection process which has been designed to test a range of competencies, with all recommendations to Scottish Ministers made solely on merit."

The report can be seen at http://www.judicialappointmentsscotland.org.uk/files/diversityconferencereport.pdf and responses should be sent to Dorothy.Smith@jabs.gsi.gov.uk