The findings of an independent review prompted by accusations that the Judicial Appointments Commission has failed to do away with so-called ‘secret soundings’ will be published early next year, the Gazette has been told.

JAC chair Lord Kakkar told the House of Commons justice select committee in June that he had initiated an independent review of the statutory consultation process. Lord Kakkar was concerned about the impact of accusations by eight anonymous serving judges that experienced women and ethnic minority candidates were being passed over for senior roles and the subsequent ‘negative’ press attention on potential candidates.

The statutory consultation process requires the commission to consult a person who has held the office that candidates are applying for, or someone who has other relevant experience, to ensure that candidates are of good character and have the relevant capability for the role.

Lord Kakkar told MPs there was no evidence that statutory consultation was working against different candidates from different groups, 'but I do believe we have a strong duty to look at this matter'. 

The review will look at the approach to statutory consultation, whether consultation responses are considered appropriately and impacts disproportionately on recommendations for appointment for any group, and whether improvements can be made.

The review is being conducted by Work Psychology Group (WPG) which, the JAC said, is a leader in the field of organisational psychology. WPG has begun interviewing partners in the Judicial Diversity Forum ‘to directly, and frankly, input to the review on behalf of their members (as potential applicants)’. WPG will also interview judges involved in the statutory consultation process and seek views from the judges in the JAC’s independent advisory group.

The JAC said it hoped to publish a full report on its website in ‘early 2022’.