Ministry of Justice
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Governance of Britain - views sought on Government's role in appointing judges

Governance of Britain - views sought on Government's role in appointing judges

MINISTRY OF JUSTICE News Release (131-07) issued by The Government News Network on 25 October 2007

A consultation asking whether the Government should reduce its role in judicial appointments was published today.

Under the current appointments system, the independent Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) is responsible for selecting judges. The Lord Chancellor has only a limited ability to reject a selection or ask for it to be reconsidered.

The consultation paper, 'The Governance of Britain: Judicial Appointments' seeks views on whether the current limited role of the executive in judicial appointments set out in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 is appropriate, or whether more could be done to limit Ministerial involvement.

Jack Straw, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice, said:

"As Lord Chancellor I am responsible for upholding a strong and independent judiciary, which is essential to the functioning of any free and democratic society. The system for appointing judges was reformed by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 and the role of the Lord Chancellor rightly and significantly constrained it. Any system must be devoid of party politics, accountable, enhance the integrity and independence of the judiciary, and inspire public confidence. I have every confidence that this new system already achieves this. But it is appropriate that in the context of the Governance of Britain debate inaugurated by the Prime Minister on 3 July we should now seek views on whether any future changes are required."

The consultation also considers the possibility of involving Parliament to increase accountability for the appointments process if the role of Ministers is reduced. However, the paper makes clear the Government would have "serious reservations" about adopting the US approach of binding confirmation hearings for judicial appointments.

The consultation follows the Governance of Britain green paper set out by the Prime Minister in July.

Notes to Editors

1. The Governance of Britain Green Paper was published on 3 July 2007. A copy can be found at http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/cm71/7170/7170.asp

2. The consultation paper, The Governance of Britain: Judicial Appointments can be found at http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/cp2507.htm

3. "The Governance of Britain: Judicial Appointments" examines the role of the executive in judicial appointments in light of the doctrine of the separation of powers and a series of fundamental principles that the Government considers should form the basis of any judicial appointments process. It also considers experience in a range of other countries. The paper outlines possible options for further reform of the executive's role in judicial appointments, and considers options for involving Parliament.

ENDS

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