England: Judicial Appointments Commission is ‘rotten to the core’
Judges are seeking an investigation into the “discriminatory, unfair and unlawful” judicial appointment system amid claims of bullying and racism, The Times reports.
The Judicial Support Network (JSN), which promotes diversity on the bench, is sending a request today to the Equality and Human Rights Commission to detail “serious, serial and systemic” failings in the appointments system.
The complaint, which runs to 44 pages, is supported by the GMB union and a number of minority lawyers’ groups. It claims that the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) is “institutionally discriminatory” and “rotten to the core”.
The JAC was established in 2006 to bring an end to the “tap on the shoulder” system previously in place and to increase transparency in the appointment of judges. Campaigners argue, however, that the old boys’ network is “alive, well and flourishing”.
The request sent by the JSN alleges that the appointment process is “tainted by an extensive and formalised process of secret soundings” that puts women and ethnic minorities at a disadvantage.
It claims too that secret reports are “routinely sought” from judges.
“This is wider than simply providing a cover for the actively racist, sexist or other bigoted individual,” says the network’s report.
“It is a devil’s pact to allow all types of prejudice and grudge fulfilment, all arguably to maintain the ideal judicial profile as nearly as possible: white, privately educated, Oxbridge, male, with low demonstrable emotional intelligence.”
Kaly Kaul QC, a Crown Court judge and founder of JSN, said: “We are not against the JAC; we are critical friends.”
She added: “We hope the referral will be welcomed by the senior judiciary and the JAC, who will be keen to allay concerns and enable reforms as required.”
A spokeswoman for the appointments commission said the JAC’s processes are “regularly independently assessed and have been found to be fair, objective and in line with best practice”.
A spokeswoman for the judiciary commented: “Any case of bullying, discrimination or harassment is a matter of serious concern particularly to the senior judiciary, who have said they will make sure they investigate any allegation thoroughly.”