law pages of Bournemouth and Poole College.
Three years ago a review of judges’ training needs was undertaken by Dame Professor Hazel Genn, now Dean of the Law School at University College London.
Its two main conclusions were that training needed to be far more tailored to the needs of individual judges, short of giving one-to-one tuition. Second, the focus of training should be on practical skills, or judgecraft, not the substantive law.
The analysis also said that that far more teaching could be done online, judges could embrace the electronic age and e-learning.
The review also highlighted concern that judicial training in England and Wales was thin compared with other jurisdictions such as Canada. Judges here are trained when appointed and after that they have perhaps two to three days a year. Now it will be four days, three of which will be residential, plus lectures and e-learning,
Another key element is management skills. When the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 made the judiciary an independent arm of the constitution, judges became responsible for a whole host of administrative activities, such as deployment and welfare. Increasingly they have to manage other judges, chair committees and undertake a host of activities other than judging in court.
The original plan would have cost more than £3 million a year, now, it will cost less than £1 million a year.
High Court judges are able to attend the training seminars and the Judicial Studies Board has proposed that new High Court judges have five days’ training in their first year and at least two days a year after that. The board is drawing up training plans with the High Court judges and a three-day residential course in serious crime will be tested this time next year.
Judges will be better able to manage their cases, assess witnesses’ credibility, make correct decisions and provide sound reasons. They will also become confident in dealing with a range of people and with unexpected events. And they would deliver judgments that were well-reasoned and comprehensible and sentencing remarks and summings-up better tailored to the facts of a case. In all these ways the administration of justice will be enhanced.