English judges

English judges have been increasingly subject to criticism in recent years. Examine their background, appointment, status and functions, explain and assess the validity of these criticisms. Judges are professional people who get paid for what the do, they do in fact perform a variety of tasks depending on the case in hand and what position in the judicial hierarchy they hold. The hierarchy of judges ranges from being the chair of a tribunal to the Lord Chancellor or the Lord Chief Justice.

There is a strong stereotype with regard to judges; they are thought to be old, conservative, well-educated, white men. To become a judge you have to have been a solicitor or a barrister for at least seven years. Then you have to be a recorder (trainee judge) for three years. The Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 made it easier for junior judges to move into the higher Courts, which there was little prospect of before. The appointment of senior judges was one of the main areas that came under fire, this was mostly due to its reported "jobs for the boys" and its old school tactics.

Because of this it was felt that the judiciary was not a fair representation of the community. It can and is argued that it is still not a fair representation as the bench is lacking in females and minority group members. The secretive processes used in the selection of judges was also criticised and accordingly changed in the courts and legal services act 1990. High court judges condemned the notion of academic judges sitting in appellate courts.

Academic judges are judges who have not been members of the bar e. g. university law lecturers etc. The concept could have been a good one as it may have widened the horizons of the judiciary to become more in line with public opinion. It would have also brought a lot clever, dedicated and experienced people to the bench. The function of a judge in court is quite complex but their main role is to advise the jury on the point or points of law that they should consider while deciding their verdict.

They don't argue the case or even decide if the defendant is guilty or not, unless a point of law makes the defendant not guilty, in which case the judge will tell jury what the verdict has to be. They also have to sentence the defendant if they are found guilty. As judges are independent this can lead to some problems as different people see things in different ways which can cause discrepancies in the standardisation of sentences. This has been combated to a certain extent by the introduction of training that incorporates sentencing guidelines along with sentencing exercises.

The right of statutory interpretation is a sizeable problem which the judiciary face criticism for, some people believe that judges are not qualified to interpret statutes as they have partaken in no formal training in that field, it (judiciary statutory interpretation) also allows unelected people (the judges) to change the law very slightly, this shouldn't be legitimate as it comes into conflict with the notion of the three separate arms of government.

There seem to be many different problems with the concept of judges, ranging from the steadfast stereotype of them, to their secretive appointment. Other problems include the lack of training that they receive and the Oxbridge elitist attitude of many of the judiciary. These arguments and many more are what the public use to criticise the judiciary. I believe that most of these arguments are ill founded, and the judiciary is very successful in their job.

There have been some positive changes in the selection and appointment processes. Also a culturally richer group of people are now interested and eligible in becoming judges which can only be a good thing as if gives the judiciary a wider spectrum of experience and views. The independent nature of the British judiciary is very useful, as it helps in keeping the three arms of government separate.