Ethnic Minority Liaison Judges Annual Report 2005-2006

|Reports and Reviews


I am pleased to introduce this annual report on the work of Ethnic Minority Liaison Judges (EMLJ). Their work is of considerable importance and needs to be better known and better understood. I very much hope that this report will be a further step in that direction.

EMLJs play a vital role in promoting communities’ confidence in the court system, and 2005-2006 was a particularly productive year. A highlight was the successful EMLJ Conference, which was held in November 2005. The Conference provided an opportunity to share experience and advice on engaging with local community groups, and a number of proposals were raised for how better to ensure the work of EMLJs’ reflects more fully the needs of the wider community. After the Conference, having sought the views of members of the Judicial Studies Board’s Equal Treatment Advisory Committee, we have decided to launch the new broadened role of Diversity and Community Relations Judges at the next Conference, to be held on 30 March 2007.

Further details of last year’s achievements, together with future plans, are set out in the pages which follow. I welcome the advances which have been made in this area and am most grateful in particular to HHJ Geoffrey Kamil for his efforts in coordinating the work of EMLJs. I handed over responsibility for the continued work of Diversity and Community Relations Judges to Lord Justice Leveson, who succeeded me as Senior Presiding Judge on 1 January 2007. However I shall continue to follow progress in this important judicial work with a keen interest.

Lord Justice Thomas
Senior Presiding Judge
December 2006

Progress made

The year saw two important innovations, they are: the creation of contact records for the Ethnic Minority Liaison Judges (EMLJ) and individual annual reporting forms to collect information about the activities of the individual EMLJs. This novelty emerged as a result of discussions held with Lord Justice Thomas which revealed: a) a need to make available information about the work undertaken by the EMLJs; b) how to contact them; and c) how they can contact each other.

Toward this end, HHJ Geoffrey Kamil undertook the task of drafting the appropriate forms that were approved by Thomas LJ. The forms were thereafter handed to each of the Judges who attended the November 2005 Conference organised for the EMLJs and were sent to those judges who were not in attendance. The completed forms were submitted to Thomas LJ to meet the purposes for which they were intended.

The individual annual reporting forms set out a summary of the work undertaken by the individual judges in fulfilling their roles. The summary will be useful in providing a record on the work accomplished by the Judges through the year. It could also serve as a guide for other EMLJs in discovering the benefits that can be garnered through different community contacts.

Ethnic Minority Liaison Judges Conference

The second Training Conference for the EMLJs took place on 11th November 2005 at Clifford’s Inn, London. The Conference was attended by 27 of these Judges. Also attending were members of the West Yorkshire Race Issues Advisory Group and DJ Ray Singh and Michael Williams for the Equal Treatment Advisory Committee (ETAC) of the Judicial Studies Board (JSB). There was also a welcomed interest and attendance by Jennifer Joseph of the (DCA) Corporate Diversity Unit.

The most encouraging participation came from Thomas LJ, who opened the Conference, chaired the morning session and delivered closing remarks at the end of the Conference; and Keene LJ who chaired the afternoon session. It was also refreshing that both the Judge LJ and Keene LJ participated in the workshop sessions. Their contributions were very much appreciated by the participants.

A summary of the Conference is attached hereto (Annex A), and provides additional information on the Conference. The summary offers also some information on the speakers and the contents of their presentations. Most of the participants were pleased by the substantive content of the Conference and felt that it was worthwhile and informative.

A major issue that arose during the Conference was that consideration be given to a suggestion that the title “Ethnic Minority Liaison Judge” be changed to one that is more inclusive, and which could embrace also the presence of whites as minorities in some neighbourhoods, and who can benefit from the attention of EMLJs. As such, a change in title would therefore reflect that the EMLJs’ duty is available to the wider community which includes also whites when in the minority. The title Circuit Community Liaison Judge was suggested and found favour with participants. Thomas LJ expressed the intent to give some thoughts to the suggestion in addition to seeking the views of the members of ETAC before making a final decision on the matter. The title Diversity and Community Relations Judge was subsequently adopted.

Future Plans

This is a time of great change in the attitude of the minority ethnic population towards the legal system. Moreover, as the issues of race and religion attain wider publicity within the media and the general public, so does the role of the Judge in maintaining fairness in dealing with minorities and issues that affect them and their communities. The work of the EMLJ has therefore assumed greater importance and must evolve in accordance with changes taking place in the society at large. With this in mind;

  1. It has been agreed with Thomas LJ that the future EMLJ Training Conferences would take place every 18 months. Accordingly, plans will be made for the next Conference to be held in March/April 2007. We hope that the timing of the conference could be arranged to avoid possible clashing with other seminars or training events, thereby securing attendance of all Liaison Judges. Also, a suitable programme is to be arranged at a better suited venue.
  2. It is intended that support will be made available to help the organizer in preparing the next Conference, including in the form of general administrative assistance. This support will facilitate the plan to publish a newsletter every six months on the activities and achievements of the judges. Such a newsletter would serve as an information tool enabling the judges to keep abreast of lessons learned and emerging good practices.
  3. The Felix Conference on the Judicial Information Technology system must be utilised more to disseminate information about work done or to be done. It serves as a valuable and instantaneous vehicle to share information. It has been used to solve problematic issues such as the effect of Muslim prayer times on the conduct of jury trials and can continue to be used for such purposes.

Pending concern

The principal problem remains the method of appointment of the EMLJs and the availability of communication tools through which notification of retirements and fresh appointments can be channelled. In this regard, notification records would need to be kept current. There is now a point of contact for such information with the Private Secretary to the Senior Presiding Judge. Accordingly, it is now possible to append a copy of the latest list of judges serving as EMLJs to this Annual Report (Annex B).

The period covered by this report has been one of change, and, of progress. It may well be that next year, the EMLJ Training Conference will be organised as a training event for Diversity and Community Relations Judges in accordance with the wishes of the Judges as expressed at the 2005 Conference.

HH Judge Geoffrey Kamil
December 2006