Personality tests may be used to pick new judges

JUDGES SHOULD be given personality tests to assess their suitability for the bench, a report commissioned by the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, said yesterday.

The tests, devised by psychologists, would help Lord Irvine to identify lawyers with the right personalities to become judges or reach high judicial office. They would also be used to test against attitudes of racism, rudeness and over-conservatism.

The proposal forms part of Sir Leonard Peach's report on the judicial appointments process. Sir Leonard said that a trial group of part-time judges could be used to try out the "psychometric tests" - a form of personality assessment. The tests would then be included in the appointment process for assistant recorders (part-time junior judges) whose number include the Prime Minister's wife, Cherie Booth.

Sir Leonard recommends: "The test should be completed prior to interview in controlled surroundings and its result should be used by the panel during the course of the interview and certainly in the final evaluation of the candidate."

Dr Colin Cooper, a psychologist and senior lecturer at Queen's University Belfast, said that any test on judicial suitability would have to test for set personality traits. He listed these as open-mindedness (willingness to consider new ideas), conscientiousness (careful attention to detail), agreeableness (being able to interact effectively with juries and counsel).

He said conservatism (prejudice, excessive punitiveness and ethnocentrism) was an example of a negative judicial personality trait. Judges would answer dozens of questions designed to test for these qualities. But he stressed that any clued-up aspiring judge would know what the expected answers to the questions would be.

Gerald Butler QC, a retired senior circuit judge, said he thought the most important quality for a judge was common sense. He said: "I suspect that it [the test] rather misses the point. You should probably do it three or four years after appointment as this is when weaknesses start to appear." He said this was when the "insolence of office" took effect. "I doubt you can test for those people who are more susceptible to that. I find the whole thing a rather curious idea indeed."

Sir Leonard also recommended the use of self- appraisal forms for potential judges and those seeking promotion as well as an Ombudsman to address the concerns of disappointed candidates. Lord Irvine welcomed the broad sweep of Sir Leonard's report, saying he would now "consider the recommendations in detail". He said he would immediately act on Sir Leonard's proposal for a Commissioner for judicial appointments to oversee the process.

But the Law Society, which represents solicitors, said the report was a "wasted opportunity for real reform" and stated its intention to continue with its boycott of "secret soundings" where judges, barristers and solicitors are consulted on the suitability of judicial candidates. It called for the creation of a full judicial appointments commission to select judges.

Lord Irvine said the term "secret soundings" was misleading because the system was no more "secret" than any other way of gathering references. He said that anyone who wanted to know who was being consulted about their application to the bench need only ask their department.

The Bar Council, which represents barristers, adopted an opposite stance and welcomed the report as "thoughtful and searching".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 Teacher Required in Grays

£21000 - £40000 per annum + Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: Key Stage 2 tea...

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee