Barriers to High Court Appointments in Northern Ireland: A Report for the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission
Project Completion Date:
Professor John Morison, Professor Brice Dickson
Other staff or partners
Leah Trainor - Postgraduate research student and research assistant. Dr Andrew Godden - Post doctoral researcher
The Law School at QUB has a developed history of working within the local jurisdiction. One of the ways this has been manifested is through research undertaken for the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission (NIJAC) who are responsible for judicial appointments. John Morison was appointed as an Independent Member of the first Judicial Appointments Commission in June 2005 (serving two terms until June 2012). In this capacity he was involved in commissioning and later undertaking a series of research reports to assist policy development as NIJAC discharges its statutory duty to develop a Programme of Action to secure, so far as it is reasonably practicable to do so, that a range of persons reflective of the community in Northern Ireland is available for consideration by NIJAC whenever it is required to select a person to be appointed, or recommended for appointment, to a listed judicial office.
Two earlier reports ("Propensity to Apply for Judicial Office under the new Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments System: a qualitative study for the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission" (October 2008) and "Rewarding Merit in Judicial Appointments? A research project undertaken by the School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast for the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission" 2013) preceded this project.
Following a tender process Professor John Morison and Professor Brice Dickson were commissioned by NIJAC in January 2019 to to undertake research into the real and perceived barriers that may be influencing those at relatively senior levels in the legal professions – widely defined – and at the County Court when they are making decisions about whether to apply for a position as a High Court judge. It had become apparent that such positions were not as attractive to potential applicants as in previous years.
The research study involved an examination of existing literature in the field, especially in relation to High Court appointments in England and Wales, where there have been more serious recruitment difficulties than in Northern Ireland. Interviews were also conducted with a wide range of interested parties: barristers, solicitors, lawyers working in the public sector, currently serving County Court and High Court judges, and retired County Court and High Court judges. A total of 50 lawyers – male and female - engaged with the fieldwork, 25 through one-to-one interviews and 25 through participation in group discussions. The resulting report – "Barriers to High Court Appointments in Northern Ireland: A Report for the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission (June 2019) – by John Morison and Brice Dickson was delivered in June 2019. It contains a series of policy recommendations to help resolve this issue.
Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission
John Morison and Brice Dickson.Barriers to High Court Appointments in Northern Ireland: A Report for the Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission (June 2019) QUB. ISBN 9781909131903
J. Morison, B. Dickson and A. Godden ‘Barriers to High Court Appointments in Northern Ireland’ (under review NILQ).