Mark Hinchliffe was appointed as Deputy President of the Health, Education and Social Care (HESC) Chamber of the First-tier Tribunal in 2009.

"When I began my role as Deputy Chamber President I was greatly assisted by other judges who provided assistance and support. My experience as a mental health lawyer was very useful, as was judicial leadership experience with the Judicial College (previously the Judicial Studies Board).

“For me, the real attraction of the job was to have the privilege of leading a large jurisdiction while working closely with stakeholders to provide an efficient tribunal service for people at their most vulnerable, usually deprived of their liberty, and with the greatest possible need for empathy, fairness and justice.

“I became a judge because I wanted to make the right decisions, based on evidence. It is very different to being an advocate, where every situation is win or lose.  

“I remember my first interview in 1990 (in the pre-JAC days), for a part time immigration adjudicator position. It was in a little room in a tower at the Houses of Parliament and I'd found out about the job by simply writing to the Lord Chancellor and asking! I was 34 at the time and my first sitting day was on my 35th birthday, which was the minimum age to be a judge at the time. After that I gradually took on more part-time fee-paid positions until I started my present role as Deputy Chamber President for the Health, Education and Social Care Chamber.

“The JAC does what it says on the tin – judges are now appointed solely on merit. Five years ago I don't think I'd have got a look in to be a judge. Now it's a much more egalitarian process and a level playing field. Because of my background of starting out as a solicitor, in the North of England, I felt like an outsider but was never treated as one.

“To prepare for my presentation as part of my selection process I read everything the JAC produced on how to give yourself the best chance. ‘It was very clear that what was wanted were practical, example based illustrations, so that's what I thought about. I had also been Director of Tribunals Training at the Judicial Studies Board for 2 years so I had lots of experience in public speaking.

“I'd like other people from non-conventional backgrounds to have faith in the system and apply. I am so pleased that I decided to 'give it a go' because I love my job. No-one can take appointment for granted any more and that's how it should be.”