JUSTICE has produced a briefing on the Courts and Tribunals (Judiciary and Functions of Staff) Bill ahead of the Second Reading in the House of Lords.
JUSTICE is broadly in favour of the content of the Bill. However, our briefing addresses some initial concerns regarding the changes proposed to the judiciary in Clause 1 and to the judicial functions of court and tribunal staff in Clause 3. The briefing also notes our concerns about what is absent from the Bill, following the shelving of last year’s more substantial Prisons and Courts Bill.
Clause 1 aims to enable “cross-deployment” of the judiciary, allowing judges to move between different types of court hearing more easily. JUSTICE believes that accelerating cross-deployment of the judiciary presents an opportunity for Government to address the unacceptable lack of judicial diversity in England and Wales. In particular, JUSTICE is keen that the importance of establishing “judicial career paths” as a step toward greater diversity is appreciated by Government, and made a central policy aim underpinning the moves towards greater cross-deployment.
Clause 3 allows for the delegation of judicial functions to “authorised court and tribunal staff”, so that judges’ time is not taken up with routine administrative matters. JUSTICE is concerned that the particular qualifications required of authorised staff members, and the limits for what they might be empowered to do, are being left to the Rule Committees. We believe that the appropriate route would be for Parliament to provide, at the very least, a framework for what this variety of roles should at a minimum contain.