Leading figures will address the question: "Merit and diversity – compatible aspirations in judicial appointments?"

Members of the justice community are coming together to host a conference in March exploring the relationship between merit and diversity in judicial appointments. Invited delegates will address the question “Merit and Diversity – Compatible Aspirations in Judicial Appointments?”, on Tuesday 11 March 2014, in Edinburgh at St Paul’s and St George’s Church, York Place.

A steering group with representation from the judiciary, the Judicial Office, the Law Society of Scotland, the Faculty of Advocates, the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland and an observer from the Scottish Government, has been tasked with planning the conference. The aims of the conference are:

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

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

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

The conference will be chaired by Lady Stacey, Senator of the College of Justice. Confirmed keynote speakers include Lord Carloway, Lord Justice Clerk, and Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger. Confirmed panel members are Neil Hutton, Professor in the Law School at Strathclyde University, Shona Simon, President, Employment Tribunals (Scotland), and David Strang, former Chief Constable of Lothian & Borders and now HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.

Lord Carloway is expected to explore the fundamental question, what is a “diverse” judiciary and does it exist in Scotland? His Lordship will consider the relevance of diversity to maintaining public confidence in the judiciary, its effect on the nature of judgments, and the extent to which the judiciary itself has a role to play in addressing these issues.

Baroness Neuberger has been engaged in these issues south of the border for many years. She commented: “I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate in Scotland. 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.”

The panel members are expected to raise a series of additional questions, such as:

  • Why is diversity of the judiciary a good thing? What is diversity intended to achieve? For example, does diversity make a difference in sentencing?

  • To improve judicial diversity, does the focus in Scotland need to shift from individual judicial appointment to a judicial career with a unified judiciary, encompassing courts and tribunal judges?

  • How can perceptions of fairness in relation to appointments to the judiciary be enhanced?

  • Is diversity within the judiciary dictated by diversity within the legal profession as a whole?

Sheriff David Mackie, chair of the steering group, said: “We have invited a mix of delegates from all groups with an interest in diversity in the judiciary. The conference will have two breakout sessions, giving delegates the opportunity to air their views. It is important to stress that those of us organising this event are not seeking to promote a single point of view. We are much more interested in getting to the heart of the issues with an honest – and hopefully lively – debate.” Invitations to interested parties have been issued and you can follow the Law Society of Scotland or the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland on Twitter for event updates.

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Diversity Steering Group
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