31 March 2022
The review, commissioned by the JAC, has found that that evidence-based statutory consultation can support the selection panel in assessing candidates and that there is no direct evidence that the statutory consultation process impacts disproportionately on recommendations for appointment for any group.
The report has also made some sound recommendations that the Commission will be taking forward from September as part of a revised approach to statutory consultation within the existing statutory framework. We believe the changes announced today will help develop the process and practice of statutory consultation to secure fairness, practicality and transparency whilst maintaining the important role that statutory consultation can play. The changes include:
- requesting dispensation to waive statutory consultation on a case-by-case basis, in large fee-paid exercises where consultees are unlikely to have relevant information on a substantial proportion of candidates.
- where statutory consultation is retained, consultation will always take place before interview, to assist panels’ overall assessment of candidates. Candidates who are already judicial office holders will be able to separately request a conversation with their leadership judge around their application and their suitability for the role.
- revising, strengthening and publishing the guidance for consultees and providing additional communication to candidates on how evidence is collated, weighted, and used in the process.
Statutory consultation – which was put in place by Parliament – is one aspect of the selection process for judicial appointment which is carefully used alongside a wealth of other evidence to make sure we select only on merit, those of good character. Among our many equality measures, JAC panels receive tailored training to assess evidence from non-traditional routes, all shortlisting is name blind and where two or more candidates in a selection exercise are judged as being of equal merit, we can give priority to one or more candidates from underrepresented groups through our equal merit approach.
Some of the aspects of the revised approach to statutory consultation lie outside our direct responsibility and will require action by others. We welcome the positive responses we have so far received that those actions can be taken forward by others. We are doing everything within our statutory framework to improve diversity and continue to work independently and in partnership with the legal professions to maximise the opportunities to recommend candidates from the widest possible backgrounds.
Before applying for a judicial role, we recommend that candidates prepare thoroughly and make use of the extensive material, support schemes and mentoring provided by the legal professions, the judiciary and the JAC. The appointment process is competitive and thorough, and many candidates are not successful in their first application. Candidates who are unsuccessful receive feedback to help them prepare for future applications.