Judges set to face trial by interview

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JUDICIAL vacancies are to be advertised from October under a new system of more open competition, writes Jason Bennetto.

Some would-be judges will have to apply for posts and for the first time a member of the public will sit on the interview panel. At the same time, under the procedures announced by Lord Mackay of Clashfern, the Lord Chancellor, job descriptions with criteria on what makes a good judge will be published. Those criteria include legal knowledge and experience, intellectual ability and sound judgement.

The decision to reform the existing 'behind-closed-doors' process follows two months of consultation. However, the move was criticised by Justice, the law reform group, which called for an independent judicial commission to appoint the judiciary.

The organisation is unhappy that the changes will apply only to the 510 circuit judges and 294 district judges. The Lord Chancellor does not intend to expand the scheme to High Court or Court of Appeal judges and Law Lords. Lord Mackay will also make the final decision on all appointments - the new panel will only provide advice - and he will continue to take into account views about candidates from the judiciary and confidential department files.