How Should Judges Be Appointed?

Judges in the UK are often upper class, white men who have become judges through a good higher education and then a further training in judiciary. Currently, there are no black high court judges however the black population in prison is for ever growing. For the purpose of this essay, I shall be arguing that judges should be appointed based mostly on life experience and relativity. Of course a standard law degree and a solid understanding of the law is necessary but that goes without saying. However the extra qualities needed are arguable.

Firstly, a judge must be empathetic. When in a hearing, it is the judges’ role to make the final decision on the sentence of the criminal. When making this decision, a judge must be aware of the huge impact the duration of a sentencing can have on an individual as this is a life changing experience for not only the criminal but their family too. For this to happen, it can be argued that the judge needs to be able to relate to the person and truly understand the implications. Not all criminals after all truly bad and they vary in the extremity.

Judges can not therefore simply be Oxbridge graduates who are well respected in a small circle, as many of these people live a completely different lifestyle and may find it hard to relate to a working class criminal. That being said it would be unreasonable to assume that different classes in society cannot relate to each other nor that criminals are always of working class. However the matter of the fact is, the majority are and it is in most cases rather difficult to relate. Secondly, a judge must be open minded.

They must not hold prejudice and must be aware of the societal issues in their nation, regardless of whether they affect them or not. For example, in 2008 the credit crunch hit the Uk causing low consumer confidence and a general depression across the country and indeed a lack of hope for the future. Although the economic issue was and still is major, it may have had little impact on those who are generally made judges. So for instance when the issue came about of a single mum trying to commit ford, it would be almost immoral to look at the criminal as a vandal simply trying to cheat an insurance company.

For this reason relatability must be present in a judge and they can not be too isolated from the general public of the nation. Discrimination in the court room is in theory prohibited however in practice it is very much visible. Studies have shown that decisions made in court are dependent upon the experiences and backgrounds of both the jury members and of the judge. In ideal world, decisions would be made without bias however this is unrealistic and will probably be an idea that will never come into existence.

It is impossible for a person to change their background or indeed to have a multiple backgrounds, therefore creating a huge difficulty in this argument. How can one truly measure a persons prejudice or bias? It is easy to stick to the common stereotype and say how do we know that white upper class judges won’t discretely discriminate against ethnic minority criminal? However the same can be said for an Indian judge towards a polish criminal or a Jewish judge towards a Muslim criminal. This therefore raises the question, is there really any way of appointing judges other than their education?

To surmise, it is evident that ideally, judges would be appointed through some test of moral grounding and ability to empathise however this argument assumes that it is easy and possible to measure this. This is not the case and therefore it would seem that in reality the only way to appoint judges is indeed based on their education and it cannot be helped if graduates from well-respected institutions are rarely from an ethnic minority. The reason for this is a different investigation entirely.