Individuals with the potential to be appointed as justices to the Supreme Court could be ‘talent spotted’ to improve diversity of entries.
Jenny Rowe, outgoing chief executive of the court, today published a series of recommendations for the next selection exercise.
The next Supreme Court justice appointment is expected to be in late 2016 when Lord Toulson reaches the retirement age of 70.
Rowe questioned lawyers, academics and experts from the legal profession as part of her review of the selection process, and she said a view had emerged that the court needed a published policy on the way equal merit provisions would be applied.
With a view to improving diversity, Rowe said the court should consider how far it is possible to develop methods for identifying individuals considered worthy of appointment. This could then lead to appropriate support in helping them to develop, with mentoring made available for those interested in qualifying for appointment.
Rowe also recommended drawing up a policy to give effect to the equal merit provisions of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which allow a candidate to be chosen on the basis of improving diversity where there are two candidates of equal merit. Of the current 12 justices, just one - Lady Hale - is a woman.
Rowe, who is due to retire in October, said the majority of responses suggested it would be necessary to have a Welsh justice at some point, although that time might not yet have arrived.
The court already has two justices from Scotland and one from Northern Ireland, with an acting judge 'who is seen as Welsh' brought in for any cases which come from Wales.
‘We can certainly continue to do that for the foreseeable future,’ said Rowe.
But she added that as the body of Welsh law increases, legislation requiring judges to have knowledge and experience of law in each part of the UK could mean that a specific Welsh appointment is necessary.
A government paper published in February recommended that at least one judge in the UK Supreme Court should have ‘particular knowledge and understanding’ of the distinct requirements of Wales.
The Welsh Assembly has long campaigned for a Welsh justice to reflect the increasing body of law that has been devolved to the country.