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Rabinder Singh was appointed to the High Court (Queen's Bench Division) in 2011. Previously he was a deputy High Court judge (Administrative Court), Recorder (Crown Court), and a barrister (QC), who specialised in public and human rights law. He was an academic and is also an author.
Judicial appointment. What happened next?
Sir Rabinder Singh tells us what he’s been doing since his appointment to the High Court (Queen’s Bench Division) in 2011.
“I do a very wide range of work, both criminal and civil, and find it both interesting and rewarding.
“In January 2013 I was appointed to be one of the Presiding Judges of the South Eastern Circuit. This is a leadership and management role, with responsibility for all the court judiciary in the South East, including London.
“People have spoken to me over the years about my JAC case study. A few have taken the opportunity to ask my advice before they applied for a judicial role. It can be daunting if you don’t know what the selection process involves so I have helped and encouraged them where I can. I have always emphasised that the JAC process is fair and rigorous.
“In these first ten years of the JAC there has been an improvement in diversity. Although the position may not be as good as many people would like, I believe this improvement will continue.
“In my view it is desirable to have an independent appointments commission – this is to everyone’s benefit, including the public.
“We can reassure the public that the best qualified candidates are appointed, which helps maintain public confidence in the judiciary.”
Rabinder Singh case study. We first spoke to him just after his appointment to the High Court. We asked about his career path and his experience of the selection process.
High Court judges assigned to the Queen's Bench Division usually sit in London, but they also travel to major court centres around the country. They try serious criminal cases, important civil cases and sit in the Court of Appeal (Criminal Division). The Queen's Bench Division deals with general common law claims, including contract and tort, and libel, and includes specialist courts: the Commercial Court, the Admiralty Court and the Administrative Court, in which Mr Justice Singh sits.
"The variety of the work was one of the attractions of being appointed to the Queen's Bench Division. In this type of work you need to have an interest in the law as sometimes you will be dealing with difficult points of law. You also need to be interested in the variety of work and the practical issues that can arise in trials. There are sometimes urgent and interim applications. You have to be prepared to do out of hours work and to think quickly in a practical way.
"I considered becoming a judge only after I had taken silk. I started to become interested in the idea of becoming a Recorder as I liked the idea of doing both criminal and civil work. At that time, under the system before the JAC was set up, I received a letter from the Lord Chancellor's Office asking me to sit as a deputy High Court judge. I then also applied to become a Recorder and was successful in a competition which was run at that time by the Lord Chancellor's Department.
"If you decide to apply for a judicial post you need to give very careful thought to your application form. There is not a lot of space in which to demonstrate evidence of how you satisfy the criteria for appointment. You need to support your application with specific and real examples from your experience of the law and of life more generally. You also need to think carefully about your referees. I decided to nominate people who could evidence the variety of my work – a number of judges, a solicitor and a senior barrister. I also gave a lot of thought and preparation to the presentation I was asked to do as part of the interview, reading widely and thinking about current issues in the legal world.
"The process was fairly quick as far as the JAC was concerned – it was advertised in March 2010 and I was informed that my name had gone forward to the Ministry of Justice in July.
"There has been an increase in the number of black and minority ethnic judges appointed to the High Court under the JAC. I do not think there are any quick fixes. The most important thing is that appointment must be on merit only. I believe there are some very talented people out there in the professions from many different backgrounds who will be appointed if they are given the opportunity to show their skills and abilities. There needs to be more of what is currently going on – outreach events and encouragement. I hope this will enable a critical mass to develop over time. Every applicant helps. As people see numbers increase, they become more confident that the system is working and it is fair and this will generate more applications in the future."