Judicial appointments must be made on merit to ensure public trust, says Lord Carloway
Lord Carloway said today that the trickle up effect of a more diverse legal profession and compulsory training are key to creating a diverse judiciary in Scotland.
Lord Carloway addressed delegates at a major conference, Merit and Diversity - Compatible Aspirations in Judicial Appointments?, in Edinburgh today, Tuesday, 11 March. The conference was hosted jointly by the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, the Judicial Office for Scotland, the Law Society of Scotland and Faculty of Advocates.
He said: "Success cannot be measured by a mere tally of the relative numbers of men and women or of ethnic minority and other groups. What should be looked at is not diversity in a judge's credentials, but diversity in judges' decisions."
Lord Carloway differentiated between 'quantitative diversity' and 'qualitative diversity', although said that the bigger picture was not whether the bench was diverse, but whether it was 'legitimate' in the eyes of the public and that in order for the judiciary to be truly diverse, the process of judicial decision making must be consciously informed by an awareness of the diverse interests and values of those litigants who come before the courts.
He said: "The quality of judicial decision making cannot be predicted or secured through a tick box assessment of the diversity of personal backgrounds amongst judicial office holders. The desirable judicial qualities are not solely the preserve of a visibly diverse bench. The same absolute standard - to do right be all people - applies to all judges and the exercise of 'informed impartiality' must be the cornerstone of a truly diverse judiciary."
He said that the judicial appointments process must remain first and foremost a meritocracy but that there required to be a guard against prejudice, discrimination or other barriers to judicial appointment.
He said: "The courts will benefit from more form a bench comprised of intelligent, well educated, experienced and hard working individuals, selected because of their merits.
"Through the significant, continuing and judge-led efforts to promote diversity awareness in judicial education, it may be hoped that the public too will be encouraged to look beyond visible diversity and to have confidence in the informed impartiality of our judges as professionals of the highest calibre, irrespective of their personal backgrounds.
"The overriding concern must be to ensure the legitimacy of our judges in the eyes of all those served by the courts."
Lord Carloway also said that there needed to be support from universities, the Law Society, the Faculty of Advocates and the government to ensure there was diversity among those entering the legal professions.
Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger DBE, who has been involved in these issues in England and Wales for many years, said she welcomed the opportunity to contribute to the debate in Scotland.
She said: "Merit and diversity are simply not in competition. What needs discussing is definitions of merit, and whose definition of merit holds sway, and also measures of diversity and whose definition of diversity holds sway."
She said the political will to improve diversity in judcial appointments was important but in considering the definition of merit for judicial appointments, it had to go beyond looking at the skills of advocacy and being able to marshal arguments to include the presence a person has on the bench and life experience that they could bring.
Baroness Neuberger added that while candidates should have the right characteristics and the potential to develop, they also required the right training and appraisal process as well as providing support for would-be judges, including opportunities for work experience and mentoring.
She added that if the right package could be created this would attract meritorious candidates and increase diversity.
Lady Stacey, Senator of the College of Justice, chaired the conference which also featured a panel discussion on what diversity of the judiciary is intended to achieve with Neil Hutton, Professor of Law at Strathclyde University, Shona Simon, President of Employment Tribunals (Scotland) and David Strang, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.
Independent research company SYSTRA will provide a follow up report from the conference.
ENDS 11 MARCH
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION: Please contact Val McEwan on 0131 226 8884
Sent on behalf of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, the Judicial Office for Scotland, the Law Society of Scotland and Faculty of Advocates.
11 March 2014