Back in September 2016 the Ministry of Justice invited views on their five proposals to modernise judicial appointments:
- Introducing a fixed, non-renewable term for fee paid (part-time judges).
- Introducing the ability to recruit to leadership positions for a fixed term, with accompanying temporary remuneration.
- Introducing an expectation (rather than guarantee) of the number of days existing fee-paid court judges are required to sit.
- Removing the entitlement of existing fee-paid judges to claim travel expenses for journeys to their primary courts.
- Introducing a requirement for existing salaried and fee-paid judges to provide notice of intention to resign or retire.
The aim of these proposals was to increase judicial diversity, improve judicial career prospects, and introduce flexibility of deployment and modern business practices.
The Law Society believes that diversity within the judiciary is as fundamental to the proper administration of justice as judicial independence; it directly impacts on public confidence in the courts and their decisions. The Society shares the government’s desire to ensure that members of the judiciary are 'drawn from the widest possible pool of talent'.
The Law Society also has concerns that:
- introducing a lack of permanency to part-time roles without creating a clear path for career progression into salaried positions could lead to a serious decrease in judicial office candidates
- mutual flexibility of part-time roles has been overlooked: the justice system relies heavily on the flexibility and experience of part-time office holders to function properly
- a fixed, non-renewable term is likely to lead to a high turnover of judges, and new appointments may sit for no longer than six to 10 years on a part-time basis
- removal of guaranteed sitting days removes any guarantee of income.
The full consultation response can be read here.