Over the past ten years, the JAC has been at the forefront of a ‘revolution’ in the process by which judges are appointed. Taps on the shoulder and secret-soundings have given way to selection days, role-play and interviews. And yet, while the representation of women in the judiciaries of Council of Europe countries averages around 48%, in England and Wales this figure remains stubbornly at about 25% mark – placing England and Wales fourth last above Azerbaijan, Scotland and Armenia. Unsurprisingly, then, issues surrounding judicial appointments remain highly contentious. This is reflected in the fact that, over and above the changes introduced by the Crime and Courts Act 2013, there have been at least eight reviews of the JAC and its processes since 2006. Concern is once again rising within political and legal circles about the slow progress on diversifying the bench.
This conference provides an opportunity to reflect on the JAC’s first ten years—its successes and failures; past and future challenges; the prospects for faster progress on diversity and obstacles to this—as well as judicial appointments more generally. It will enable those involved in the appointments processes to understand how policy debates are located within theoretical and international contexts as well as enabling academics to better grasp the challenges faced by the JAC, policy-makers and officials.
To this end, the conference will:
- Contribute to policy debates about judicial appointments generally and the policy and practice of the JAC in particular, including by reflecting on the impact of the JAC’s creation, its first ten years and fostering the debate on how the JAC should approach the next ten years;
- Situate policy debates within theoretical discussions on diversity, judicial power and institutional design, in particular by encouraging those involved in determining the policy and practice of the JAC to reflect on the extent to which theoretical and international insights on judicial diversity, legitimacy and accountability inform the current appointments processes;
- Locate UK policy debates within international discussions about diversity, legitimacy and accountability in judicial appointments;
- Identify concrete changes in policy and practice that would improve judicial appointments, including via ‘break-out’ sessions.