The Constitutional Reform Act 2005
For the first time in almost 900 years, judicial independence is now officially enshrined in law. The key changes brought in by the act include:
* A duty on government ministers to uphold the independence of the judiciary, barring them from trying to influence judicial decisions through any special access to judges * Reform of the post of Lord Chancellor, transferring his judicial functions to the President of the Courts of England and Wales – a new title given to the Lord Chief Justice. The Lord Chief Justice is now responsible for the training, guidance and deployment of judges and represents the views of the judiciary of England and Wales to Parliament and ministers * An independent Supreme Court has been established, separate from the House of Lords and with its own independent appointments system, staff, budget and building * An independent Judicial Appointments Commission, responsible for selecting candidates to recommend for judicial appointment to the Secretary of State for Justice. The Judicial Appointments Commission ensures that merit remains the sole criterion for appointment and the appointments system is modern, open and transparent * An Judicial Appointments and Conduct Ombudsman, responsible for investigating and making recommendations concerning complaints about the judicial appointments process, and the handling of judicial conduct complaints within the scope of the Constitutional Reform Act. What has not changed is the way judgments are made or given; after all, judges have been independent in the way they work for centuries. The real differences are in the day-to-day management of the judiciary, the way judges are appointed and the way complaints are dealt with. These are now truly independent, to enhance accountability, public confidence and effectiveness. What have been the criticisms of the selection process for the senior judiciary in England & Wales and it is likely that the reforms introduced by the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 will meet those criticisms? The constitutional Reform Act 2005 establishes, an independent Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) to be launched on 3 April 2006. The JAC will select candidates for appointments as judicial office holders in England and Wales by the Queen or the Lord Chancellor(solely on merit). The commission consists of 15 members, 6 of them being lay members, the rest being from the judiciary, tribunal, legal profession. The Act also established an independent Supreme Court, to replace the Appellate Committee of the |House of lords as the highest appeal court in the Uk
In order to see whether this Act has met the criticism of the old selection process for the senior judiciary, we must look into the main problems of the old system. The problems being, the extent to which the appointment system promotes the independence of the judges from political control, second it lacked openness and democratic accountability and third it lacked diversity in the composition of judiciary. Over the centuries the appointment of judicial posts have seemed to be influenced by political preferences. Griffith states that judges are political. This can be evidenced by this that at the end of 1800's, the conservative Prime Minister, lord Sailisbury, appointed Lord Halsbury as Lord Chancellor, Lord Halsbury immediately began to staff junior and senior ranks of the judiciary with his political allies. Therefore it seemed that the ruling party could influence the composition of judiciary. Under the previous judicial appointments process, the judges of the Court of Appeal and above were chosen by the Queen on the recommendation of the Prime Minister, acting on the advice of the Lord Chancellor. For High Court judges and below, the prime minister played no role and the Queen was advised by the Lord Chancellor directly. In parctise the monarch rubber stamped the decision of her ministers. Traditionally therefore, politicians...
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