Lord Taylor warns against changes in appointing judges

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Indy Politics
Lord Taylor, the Lord Chief Justice, yesterday mounted a robust defence of the country's judges and the way they are appointed.

Warning that any changes could lead to a dangerous loss of judicial independence, he told the Commons Home Affairs select committee that the proof of the system was in the high quality and integrity of the existing senior judiciary.

He said one of its main functions was to protect the citizen against the abuse of power and the judiciary had proved "time and time again" in judicial review proceedings "that it was not prepared to kowtow to the executive".

Lord Taylor dismissed Labour's proposal for a broad-based appointments commission claiming that the staffing of it could be political and that some members might be determined to fight a particular corner. Now, senior judges are appointed by the Lord Chancellor, who takes soundings from other judges.

This system has been criticised for producing a predominantly male, middle- class, Oxbridge and public school hierarchy - latest figures show that about 80 per cent of senior judges have passed through Oxbridge.

But yesterday Lord Taylor said he was against any form of "reverse discrimination" which would ensure more women or ethnic minorities on to the bench. He said that changes which now saw people from more diverse backgrounds entering the legal profession would ensure that more would ultimately end up on the bench wholly on their own merits.

Lord Taylor also dismissed suggestions that judges were in danger of losing their reputation of independence if they continue to be called upon to head inquiries and committees such as the Scott inquiry and the Nolan committee, which become embroiled in politics.

Lord Taylor said such inquiries were usually set up as a result of a crisis in public confidence and there was no one better than an impartial judge, with no axe to grind and with experience of investigating the truth, to restore that confidence.