The Law Society and the Bar Council are urging for radical reforms to the way judges are appointed.
In a response to the ‘Increasing Diversity in the Judiciary’ consultation paper issued by the Department of Constitutional Affairs (DCA), both bodies said merit had to be paramount when selecting judges.
The automatic consultation process, which has been a traditional part of choosing judges, was condemned by both organisations. The Law Society called it “one of the biggest obstacles in the way of achieving diversity in judicial appointments”.
Instead, the bodies support selection panels and references and believe that candidates’ specific expertise should be a bigger part of the selection process.
The responses also stressed that diversity needs to be improved at all levels of the profession. The Law Society said: “It’s not enough to introduce change at the lower levels and then hope that it will percolate slowly upwards.”
Both organisations said the consultation paper should have been less restrictive, and that it concentrated too much on issues of gender and race.
The Bar Council suggested a new ‘work shadowing’ scheme for pupils and trainees designed to give them more information about the judiciary.
The consultation period finished on 21 January and a report is expected in due course.