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Britain’s top lawyers concede that the legal appointment system is corrupt and widely abused. A report, commissioned by the Lord Chancellor’s Department, finds that the selection process is deeply flawed in the opinion of many judges and senior barristers. The data, collected from interviews with 137 judges and senior lawyers, reveals a “clear consensus … for the appointments processes to be based on openness, objectivity and selection on merit rather than patronage.” The report is a severe blow to the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, who backs the current “secret soundings” system, where senior lawyers are asked privately for their views on judicial candidates. Many respondents felt strongly that underrepresented groups were not being properly recruited. The report found that the following factors were most commonly cited as responsible for preventing lawyers from such groups from applying: � The extent to which being in a top-ranking chambers affects barristers’ chances of appointment. � The effects of racial discrimination on the capacity of minority barristers to build up a successful practice. � The need to be ‘known’ in order to be appointed, and the role of social networking in the consultation process. � The difficulties faced by women lawyers with children in balancing work and domestic responsibilities. The authors of the report, Kate Malleson of the London School of Economics, and Farenda Banda, of the School of Oriental and African Studies, say concerns that the judiciary is unrepresentative have become more severe because of the “ten-fold” increase in the number of sitting judges over the last 30 years. Most respondents argued for a judicial appointment commission to be set up and administered by a wide range of judges, lawyers and civil servants.

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