Judicial appointments

Appointment of judges is finally modernised

24 November 2008 pr 047.08

A new initiative to modernise the appointment of judges in England and Wales will take affect from today (24 November). Up until now, only certain types of lawyers, such as solicitors and barristers, have been eligible to apply to become judges. The new move now means that specialist legal professionals such as Legal Executive Lawyers will also be able to apply to become judges.

The overhaul aims to increase diversity amongst judges and make them more reflective of society – 75% of Legal Executive Lawyers are women and more than 13% represent black or minority ethnicities.

The Government has been committed to increasing public confidence in the judiciary and making it better reflect the modern face of society. This latest change will widen the pool of talent from which judges are selected, and help to ensure that those with the most relevant skills, experience and expertise can apply for a post.

“By now allowing Legal Executive Lawyers to become judges, this move provides an excellent opportunity to reduce the exclusivity which has blighted the appointment of judges up to now. This will help to build public confidence that judges understand and are representative of today’s society,” said Mark Bishop, President of the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX).

Previously the Government has received criticism as moves by ministers to open up the judiciary to more women, solicitors and ethnic minorities were said to be failing to have any significant impact.

“We believe that judges should be appointed solely on merit and that the judiciary can only benefit by having suitably qualified people from a diverse background. The system was not in the public interest; restricting appointment only to certain lawyers meant that judges still tended to be white males with a public school education. Our lawyer members better reflect society as a whole, which can only help boost confidence in the system,” Mr. Bishop continued.