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Clause 2 - Membership of the Commission

Part of Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:15 am on 25th March 2004.

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Photo of Rt Hon David Trimble Rt Hon David Trimble Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party 10:15 am, 25th March 2004

I rise to support the hon. Member for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) on amendment No. 1 and to speak to amendments Nos. 30, 49 and 50. Clause 2, and subsection (1) in particular, changes the commission from being representative of the community, as provided in the 2002 Act, to being reflective. I am interested in the hon. Gentleman's point, which he rightly made, that ''reflective'' is less rigid than ''representative'', and that consequently any arguments for numerical relationships and proportions are less strong if ''reflective'' is used. That point is right and well made.

I also endorse the hon. Gentleman's point that although the Minister has often prayed in aid the criminal justice review and talked about how the Government are implementing it, clause 2 is a significant departure from the review's recommendations. The hon. Gentleman is right that the review is clear about the fact that issues in respect of people appointed to the Judicial Appointments Commission being representative or reflective should apply only to the lay members, but the Bill applies them to the judicial and other members as well. That is a significant shift and a departure from the criminal justice review. It is important to note that.

I have to say to the Minister that it is no part of the function of a judiciary to be representative of the community. Oh yes, it is a good thing for the community to have confidence in the judiciary, but the judiciary should be appointed, as the Bill makes clear elsewhere, solely on merit. The function of the judiciary is to adjudicate on issues that come before it, so the important thing for the judiciary is to have knowledge of the law and good judgment in applying it. Being representative is not the point; it is not relevant. Indeed, to talk in terms of the representativeness of the judiciary is to make a grave mistake.

This country does not have an elected judiciary, although the Labour party seems, in many ways, to be imitating all forms of US political action and social and legal structure. The reforms that have been touched on so far seem to have been drawn quickly from the American experience and sketched out on the back of an envelope with no real consideration, but this matter is worth consideration. We do not have an elected judiciary. In our system, it is not part of the function of the judiciary to be representative. Its members are there to be impartial and skilled.