Who judges the Judges?
Before the 2005 constitutional reform act the appointment of judges was a process managed by the Lord Chancellor who was, at that time, head of the judiciary. The process was described as a “tap on the shoulder” it appeared to appoint judges who were generally of high calibre however they tended to be mainly of similar background. Graduates of Oxford and Cambridge were they majority of the appointees. Since the 1960s more and more women came to practise law but a mere handful of them made appointment to the High Court or above usually because they had children and could not take a more time consuming role.
Since the 2005 Act there has been a Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC). The Act requires that selection must be "solely on merit" (s.63) but, according to s.64, the JAC has to also encourage diversity in the range of persons available for selection for appointment - in effect looking at a wider pool of lawyers to have less white, middle aged, conservative men sitting on the JAC making decisions that affect the entire country. The Lord Chancellor, a title that was retained for certain purposes even though the head of the judiciary is actually the Lord Chief Justice, issues "guidance" regarding procedures for identifying people who wanted to be considered and for assessing these people and give guidance on diversity.
Baroness Prashar (JAC Chairman) gave some insight into the work which has been done to improve diversity. She maintains that progress is being made on diversity whilst continuing to maintain excellence. She also indicates that some people wish to change the system so that Ministers choose from a short list handed to them by the JAC but she adds that such a change would be a backward step from judicial independence. This would be because the government would make the decision of who was on the committee and they may choose judges who share the same political leanings or not choose someone purely because...