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Diversity steering group to tackle barriers to the bench

11 March 2015 | tagged News release

A diversity steering group has set out proposals to help overcome barriers to a judicial career in a report published today, Wednesday, 11 March 2015.

The Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland (JABS) , in partnership with the Judicial Office for Scotland, the Law Society of Scotland and Faculty of Advocates, has outlined a range of proposals in a report from the high profile conference ‘Merit and diversity – compatible aspirations in judicial appointment?’ held in 2014.

Sir Muir Russell, chairing Member of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, said: “Everyone agrees that judicial appointments should be made on merit. However we know that there is increasing importance placed on diversity of representation, not just in employment but on the boards of companies and in public appointments.

“We set out to examine what, if anything, should be done to increase diversity in judicial appointments at our conference last year. Today’s report highlights the issues raised at the conference and provides an excellent platform for further discussions with individuals and organisations. We are keen to get feedback on the report and about the areas of work we should undertake to help increase diversity.

“It is essential that our judges are respected for fairness and justice in their decision making, regardless of their gender or background.

“That said, we believe that we need to tackle existing barriers, whether real or perceived, and consider what can be done to encourage a wider pool of candidates to consider applying for judicial posts. There are many talented individuals who have high levels of knowledge and experience and have the right skills to be able to make sustainable judicial decisions, but who may not think that a judicial post is for them for any number of reasons, from wanting to work part-time to being unaware of the routes to a judicial post and don’t realise the opportunities that there are for them.

 “We also want to dispel some of the myths that persist around judicial appointments, such as the idea that you need the right connections or there is a preference for advocacy skills over decision-making skills. In reality it is an independent selection process which has been designed to test a range of competencies, with all recommendations to Scottish Ministers made solely on merit.”

A number of steps have been taken by the Diversity Steering Group since the 2014 conference, with suggested proposals including:

  • Examining the feasibility of part-time or flexible working

  • A shift from all-Scotland appointment to a fixed appointment or appointment to an individual sheriffdom

  • Increased training and guidance (pre and post appointment)

  • Promoting positive role models to encourage prospective candidates

  • Judicial mentoring or shadowing in court

  • Targeted outreach to encourage applicants among under-represented groups

Alistair Morris, president of the Law Society of Scotland and member of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, said: “There has been significant work done since last year’s conference and the proposals and actions outlined in today’s report provide further food for thought on how we can work towards increasing diversity.

“Ensuring we have a good understanding of what ‘merit’ actually means in terms of the skills and characteristics required for a judicial post is key to the appointment process. Removing any unnecessary barriers, improving the application process and increasing the support and training available for would-be judges will also help to encourage a wider range of candidates not only to apply for judicial posts, but succeed in their application.”

The full Diversity Conference Report is available to read. Responses to the report should be sentto Dorothy Smith by email  dorothy.smith@jabs.gsi.gov.uk

ENDS  

Notes to editors

The Judicial Appointments Board Scotland was set up in 2002 as an independent advisory body which ensures that the judicial appointment selection process is open, transparent and based on merit. All appointments to become a Senator of the College of Justice, Sheriff Principal, Sheriff and part-time Sheriff are made through JABS.

The Diversity Steering Group includes representatives from JABS, The Judicial Office for Scotland, The Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates.

The conference ‘Merit and Diversity – Compatible Aspirations in Judicial Appointments?’ featured keynote speeches from the Right Honourable Lord Carloway, Lord Justice Clerk, and Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger DBE. It was held on 11 March 2014 to:

  • Discuss the issues arising from the statutory provision that selection of an individual to be recommended for appointment must be solely on merit;

  • Learn more about attitudes to judicial office and whether any barriers, real or perceived, need to be addressed to encourage people to apply;

  • Discuss how to encourage diversity in the range of individuals available for selection to be recommended for appointment to judicial office.

 

Issued on behalf of The Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, The Judicial Office for Scotland, The Law Society of Scotland, The Faculty of Advocates.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT:

Dorothy Smith, Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland - Dorothy.Smith@jabs.gsi.gov.uk

Val McEwan, Law Society of Scotland - 0131 226 8884 or valeriemcewan@lawscot.org.uk

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