Law Society calls for body to oversee judicial selection

THE LAW Society has called on MPs to set up a new independent body to oversee the future selection of judges.

A new Judicial Appointments Commission was one of the key proposals in the society's submission on judge selection procedure to the Home Affairs Select Committee last week.

The commission would produce more objective appointments and oversee a formalised procedure for dealing with complaints about judges.

Other recommendations include more flexible arrangements for part-time sitting when lawyers are preparing for a judicial career and the introduction of measures to reduce the average age of judges.

Charles Elly, Law Society president, said the system should try to persuade people from a more diverse range of backgrounds on to the bench.

“Without reforms on those lines, it will take far too long before the make-up of our judiciary is more representative of the legal profession from which it is drawn.”

The submission criticised the present system as biased towards those from the “standard background for judges” and against solicitors, women and members of ethnic minorities.

It says the new commission should have an executive rather than advisory role, would loosen ministerial control over appointments, limit the influence of sitting judges in recruiting new ones and help formalise criteria and methods of selection.

Although the society has ruled out a career judiciary, it says it wants judges to begin their careers earlier and suggests five years as an assistant recorder, allowing candidates to reach the bench by 40.

Solicitors who want to be judges would benefit from sitting part-time in concentrated periods, rather than for small infrequent spells, which disrupts the running of multi-partner practices.