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UNACCOUNTABLE AND LACKING IN TRANSPARENCY
The above quote is taken not from yet another attack by the Celtic League on the system whereby Deemsters (Manx High Court Judges) are appointed but is lifted straight from the web-pages of the United Kingdom Department of Constitutional Affairs commenting on the system whereby Judges are appointed. The DCA comment and in particular
Cathal Ó Luain pour Celtic League le 11/03/07 11:57

The above quote is taken not from yet another attack by the Celtic League on the system whereby Deemsters (Manx High Court Judges) are appointed but is lifted straight from the web-pages of the United Kingdom Department of Constitutional Affairs commenting on the system whereby Judges are appointed.

The DCA comment and in particular their observations on the system in other jurisdictions indicates that there is a mood for change - everywhere that is with the exception of the closeted judicial establishment in the Isle of Man!

In 2003 the DCA issued a consultative paper entitled "Constitutional reform: a new way of appointing judges" as part of a process to stimulate debate on judicial reform.

Tellingly the DCA paper says:

"In order for the judiciary to continue to command public confidence, it is vital that the process by which judges are selected and appointed must also command confidence. The present judicial appointments system has come under increasing scrutiny and challenge in recent years. Rightly or wrongly, the existing procedures are commonly seen as unaccountable and lacking in transparency. They are perceived by many to be systemically biased. Whether or not the system really is biased, the perception has an impact which is real enough. This perception may damage public confidence in the administration of justice"

All of these comments are equally applicable to the Isle of Man though as yet there has been no serious call or even debate on the need for reform.

Interestingly Scotland the Isle of Man's close Celtic neighbour is proceeding with change. The same 2003 DCA Constitutional reform brief commented on the situation in Scotland as follows:

"Scotland

Background

The statutory arrangements for judicial appointments in post-devolution Scotland are set out in the Scotland Act 1998. The Act empowers the First Minister to recommend candidates to The Queen, following consultation with the Lord President of the Court of Session. Post-devolution, but prior to the creation of a Judicial Appointments Board in June 2002, the Lord Advocate recommended candidates to the First Minister following confidential consultation. Vacancies for appointment to Sheriffs Posts were advertised, following which the Lord Advocate again made recommendations to the First Minister, having received advice from the Sheriffs Principal.

In September 1999, the Scottish Executive committed to a consultation exercise on the arrangements for judicial appointments in A Programme for Government. In April 2000, the Executive issued a consultation paper entitled Judicial Appointments: an Inclusive Approach Responses revealed general support for the establishment of a Judicial Appointments Board. In March 2001, the Justice Minister announced the Executive's intention to establish the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland. The Board began work in June 2002. It presently operates on an administrative footing but will, in due course, be formalised in legislation.

Membership

The Board is comprised of ten members (including the Chairman), with an equal balance of lay members from varying backgrounds, and legal members, drawn from both the judiciary and legal professions. The current Chairman is from a senior local government background. Two lay members have backgrounds in business. The two others are academic professors. The members were appointed by the Scottish Executive after an advertisement seeking applicants.

Remit

For those judicial offices covered by the Board (see below), the power to make appointments (or recommend them to the Queen) remains in the hands of the Scottish Executive. The Board's specific remit is:

to provide the First Minister with a list of candidates recommended for appointment to the offices of Judge of the Court of Session, Sheriff Principal, Sheriff and Part-time Sheriff;

to make such recommendations on merit, but in addition to consider ways of recruiting a judiciary which is as representative as possible of the communities which they serve; and

to undertake the recruitment and assessment process in an efficient and effective way.

The Board is authorised to organise its own methods of working within the framework of a set of principles laid down by the Executive. Those are:

vacancies must be publicly advertised;

all eligible applicants must be considered;

applicants should be considered against objective criteria;

legally qualified members must be satisfied that any candidate to be recommended for appointment has the requisite professional competence for the post;

candidates must be recommended on merit;

no candidate should be recommended without having been interviewed;

Ministers are provided with a written report on all competitions and that candidates interviewed should be reported on; and feedback is provided to applicants, if requested, although it is for the Board to decide the method and extent of feedback given to applicants.

When the Executive requires judicial posts to be filled, the Board, supported by a small administrative staff, advertises vacancies and conducts recruitment exercises. After assessing candidates, the Board submits a ranked list of recommendations to the Executive. This process is the same for all appointments within the Board's remit. [Endnote 15] Although the Board's procedures must be seen to be open and fair the identity of applicants is confidential, as is the information contained in applications.

The First Minister has discretion to reject the Board's recommendation and require a new list to be drawn up, but only where there is a compelling reason to do so. Since the Board began work in June 2002, none of its selections have been rejected and appointments to approximately 40 posts have been made.

The Scottish Judicial Appointments Board's remit does not include judicial training, which is arranged by the Judicial Studies Committee. The Board has no involvement in dealing with complaints about judicial misconduct, which are dealt with by the Scottish Executive Justice Department. Removal of judges for gross misconduct is a matter for the Scottish Parliament on presentation of a motion for removal brought by the First Minister."

J B Moffatt Director of Information Celtic League

24/02/07

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The Celtic League has branches in the six Celtic Countries. It works to promote cooperation between these countries and campaigns on a broad range of political, cultural and environmental matters. It highlights human rights abuse, monitors all military activity and focuses on socio-economic issues. TEL (UK) 01624 877918 MOBILE (UK)07624 491609 (voir le site)
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