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Clement Goldstone is the Resident Senior Circuit Judge in Liverpool, appointed in October 2011. Previously he was a Circuit Judge, part-time Mental Health Review Tribunal Chairman, Recorder, and QC.
“You have to be really hungry for the role. You are not simply being a Circuit Judge with a difference and paid a few extra thousand pounds per year. There is a lot more to it than that. The administrative side of the role is challenging but interesting. I suspect if you have not got a real enthusiasm and skill for management and administration, you are going to be found wanting.
“The management work takes up between one and two hours a day over the course of a week. It can concern, among other areas of responsibility, the allocation of cases, transfer of legal aid, ongoing directions for cases to be tried and keeping control of the workload of staff in an environment of diminishing resources. There are frequent opportunities to interact with your fellow resident judges, particularly in relation to Circuit matters, and also with your Circuit's presiding judges. At the moment there are also issues on the early guilty plea scheme – which was piloted in Liverpool and is now being rolled out nationwide – and how this will interact with the proposed abolition of committals. This involves contact with the Senior Presiding Judge's office. There is also the pastoral side of the role. This is very important, especially at the start of one's appointment as a Resident Senior Circuit Judge, as no two resident judges have the same style. This management work is a variation on a theme for me as previously I was a Head of Chambers and I had deputised for the Recorder of Manchester while sitting there as a Circuit Judge.
“I ensure, to the best of my ability, that I do not simply have one long case after another. Between major cases, I obviously help out with the more run-of-the-mill work, and I like to conduct lists of plea and case management hearings in order to get to know the younger members of the local Bar and Higher Court Advocates who might not appear in the more serious cases. The listings staff bear in mind that I have administrative duties to perform and some of these take place outside the court building. The cases I hear can be long or short because it is not just the consequences of a crime but also the level of publicity which can indicate whether a particular case should be allocated to me. The cases which I try vary from the most serious, including homicide and terrorism offences, to those which are barely serious enough to meet the threshold of going to the Crown Court.
“I applied to be the Resident Senior Circuit Judge in Manchester in 2007 and was not selected. In some respects I think it was useful to have this previous application experience, but I also felt that, having been unsuccessful once, the pressure was all the greater this time. Despite this, I would advise any future applicants not to be daunted if they have been rejected before. The length of the process is often subject to criticism but it is easier to handle if you are already a serving judge. Those who are applying for an appointment from within their branch of the profession may find it more difficult to remain patient while awaiting the outcome of any interview which they have attended.
“I also feel future applicants for the role of Senior and Resident Circuit Judge should know about the court centre to which they are applying and use that information in their application form and interview. You need to know something about the way the court works. However you go about it, you must be fully prepared for interview, but not over-prepared to the extent that your individual personality does not come across. The people selected for all levels of the judiciary need to be the best people for the job, whether male or female, and whatever their ethnic origin.
“I am enjoying the challenge of my new role. At 62, you do not think that there will necessarily be any new areas open to you. My friends outside the law find it difficult to believe that at a time when they are contemplating retirement, or having it thrust upon them, I have just been appointed to a new position which will remain open until I am 70. My predecessor ran the tightest of ships and had a team of very experienced judges. Over the course of the next year I am going to lose eight of them, so my biggest challenge is going to be establishing a new team – some of whom will know each other and others who won't – who can work together to successfully administer justice in a centre of this size.”