JAC 'can change history'

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The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) ‘has the potential to alter the historical pattern of under-representation of certain groups among the judiciary’, but a broader range of people need to apply, the Employment Tribunals president said last week.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Society of Asian Lawyers (SAL) and JAC, Judge Goolam Meeran QC said the new qualifying test and role-play exercises were a better way of testing the judicial ability of candidates than an application form and 45-minute interview.

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The old system, he said, gave an advantage to good ‘form-fillers’ and disadvantaged certain other people who had the qualities and abilities for a judicial appointment.

‘The JAC have begun the process of introducing a greater degree of objectivity into the process, examining the reasons why such under-representation exists. It acknowledges that there are many more capable individuals in the pool of potential candidates than applications received,’ said Meeran.

He said one crucial factor in determining whether the JAC succeeds in achieving a more diverse judiciary would be whether enough candidates from a wide range of backgrounds applied.

Judge Frances Kirkham (pictured), a JAC commissioner, said: ‘We are under a statutory obligation to widen the range from which applicants are drawn and we want to understand the barriers to applying for judicial appointment.’

SAL chairman Sundeep Bhatia said: ‘Our fear is that there are a number of worthy candidates who, for whatever reason, do not seem to be selected for the highest posts.’

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