Judges to get major training shake-up

THE JUDICIAL Studies Board (JSB) plans major improvements to judge training in response to Lord Woolf's proposals for judicial case management, rapid changes in criminal law, and the public's expectations of a better service.

More training for all levels of judges as well as magistrates and tribunals are in the pipeline. More regular reporting of such developments are also expected, with the introduction of an annual rather than four-yearly report from 1996.

And there are plans for extending training to the most junior judges as a priority for 1996 because of “increasing concern” over the “absence of any continuation training” for nominated circuit judges and the “absence of any training at all” for those judges hearing only family cases.

The JSB, in its 1991-1995 report published last week, said: “It is hoped that, when the next report is published, considerable progress on all fronts will have been made so that, by the time this committee reaches its second decade in two years' time, a substantial welcome and beneficial transformation will have taken place.”

In the report JSB chair Lord Justice Henry said the board was at a “crucial transitional stage in its development”. But he stressed that adequate resources were needed, including improved staffing and infrastructure, to meet demand which is outstripping its ability to deliver.

The Lord Chancellor supports a host of further changes, including the JSB managing its own budget to preserve independence. Lord Mackay also backs moves to appoint two circuit judges (Judge Pitchers and Judge Sumner) as directors of studies to set up a working party on “continuation training”.

The Law Society and Bar Council endorsed the JSB's plans. A Bar spokesman said training was essential if Woolf's reforms were to succeed.