Barristers oppose Baroness Hale proposal for political input in judicial posts

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Nov 06, 2017
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Baroness Hale of Richmond suggested allowing two politicians to join the appointments panel

Jane Barlow/PA

The UK’s most senior judge has met with widespread opposition from barristers over her idea to involve politicians in the selection of senior judiciary.

An exclusive poll conducted for The Times of nearly 400 barristers found that 87 per cent opposed the idea proposed recently by Baroness Hale of Richmond, the new president of the Supreme Court.

She made the “humble suggestion” as a way of meeting criticisms that the public should have more say in selecting judges because they made decisions with political consequences. The idea was that for the most senior posts, a senior politician from the government and from the opposition would join the appointments panel.

However, the survey, which coincides with the annual Bar Conference this weekend, shows that lawyers overwhelmingly objected to the proposal.

Andrew Langdon, QC, chairman of the Bar Council, which represents barristers in England and Wales, said: “The independence of the judiciary will always be guarded fiercely by the Bar. The longstanding and renowned impartiality of our judiciary sets us apart from others and it is in no one’s interests for that reputation to be put at risk.

“It is difficult to overstate the importance of our being able to continue to point to the entire absence of political interference in judicial appointments.”

The independence of the judiciary will always be guarded fiercely by the Bar

Langdon said that “any piloting of these measures will not be supported by the Bar unless we have confidence that a full and fair evaluation process which will measure our concerns is in place. Such a process must be robust and must not be distorted by pre-selection of cases to be listed in the pilot courts”.

The survey also revealed that barristers largely backed the drive to prosecute racial hatred online. Some 37 per cent agreed that the initiative went too far in endangering free speech while 63 per cent disagreed.

More than 76 per cent also backed suspects being charged on a “race-blind” basis, as proposed in a recent report on race and the criminal justice system from David Lammy, the Labour barrister-MP.

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