Tim Skelton has been a lay panel chair for 9 years. He is also involved with regulatory work with the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the General Dental Council and the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons. He has been Chair of Dorset Probation Trust and a Non-Executive Director of a Specialist Learning Disability NHS Trust in Oxfordshire. He was previously Development Director for Whitbread New Ventures and an NHS Trust Chief Executive.

“I have worked in both the public and private sector. As a Chief Executive of an NHS Trust I helped develop a more competency-based recruitment programmes, using lay people for the recruitment of senior professionals such as consultants.

“I have been a JAC panel chair for 9 years. I was one of several chairs to join when the JAC had its first recruitment round for panel members. The selection of judges has become more rigorous over time. In addition the number of people applying has increased so the JAC has had to develop fair and innovative short listing processes. They have done this very effectively.

“I have worked on average about 30 days a year for the JAC. Exercises come usually in blocks of a few weeks at a time. A panel chair is involved in briefing and training for each exercise, sifting the long list of applicants and then spending time undertaking the interviews. For new applicants to the Judiciary they will frequently be asked to undertake a role play. This is followed by a moderation day to ensure all the panels are grading in a consistent way and to agree a merit order for all candidates.

“The lay members of the panel ensure that the full range of competencies are given focus. So, alongside their intellect and knowledge of the law, judicial applicants must also be able to demonstrate other skills such as an ability to communicate with vulnerable people, to understand and deal fairly with people who have different needs and to maintain authority when challenged.

“Being a panel member is a hugely important and rewarding role. We need to ensure each candidate is able to demonstrate their full potential for a judicial role and fairly and accurately mark them against the required competencies. The 3 panel members assess independently before comparing their grades. Frequently the panel agree, but if there are differences of opinion then that is when the Chair has a key role to play. The panel would then have to review the relevant competency and understand the evidence that lead to each individual coming to their conclusion. By listening and constructively challenging it is seldom that a consensus amongst the panel cannot be reached.

“One of the most satisfying parts of the role is when a judicial panel member who has limited knowledge of the JAC joins a selection exercise for the first time. They often have lots of questions and are sometimes initially rather cynical about the JAC and its work. However by the end of a selection exercise normally those doubts have disappeared, they feel confident in their role and they are able to fully support the selection methods deployed by the JAC.”