An annual report on the work of Circuit Judges who foster good links with their local communities has just been published. It is available on the judicial website.
Covering the period 2005/06, it reflects on the role played by Ethnic Minority Liaison Judges (EMLJ); which includes meeting with community groups, arranging court visits, undertaking talks and attending events and generally breaking down any barriers to communication and understanding.
HH Judge Geoffrey Kamil of Bradford Combined Court, who was responsible for expanding the scheme prior to its being adopted nationally, comments in the report on the timeliness of the initiative:
“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 society at large.”
The annual report records how judges up and down the country have received training to assist them in the role, and procedures for the sharing of good practice and experiences. Judge Kamil explained:
“What works in one area will often work another, and in fact each judge does an individual report on their activities which provides ideas for others to pursue – with specific communities or groups in their own areas.”
Another highlight of the year was the second EMLJs Training Conference, which took place at Clifford’s Inn, London in November 2005, with sessions chaired by Lord Justice Thomas and Lord Justice Keene. This year’s conference is at the end of this month, with Mrs Justice Dobbs acting as Chair.
Lord Justice Leveson, the Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales, said:
“I welcome the advances which have been made by the EMLJs, who are helping to build bridges between judges, courts and their communities. This sort of activity can only improve confidence in the justice system locally, and perhaps help to demolish a few myths along the way.
“By the nature of their work, judges get exposed to more than their share of the problems of society, and this initiative helps put that in context by understanding local communities in a much wider context.”