Jones, R (on the application of) v Judicial Appointments Commission, Court of Appeal - Administrative Court, May 23, 2014, [2014] EWHC 1680 (Admin)

Resolution Date:May 23, 2014
Issuing Organization:Administrative Court
Actores:Jones, R (on the application of) v Judicial Appointments Commission

Case No: CO/965/2014

Neutral Citation Number: [2014] EWHC 1680 (Admin)




Royal Courts of Justice

Strand, London, WC2A 2LL

Date: 23/05/2014

Before :




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Between :

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Jonathan Swift QC (instructed by Smith Llewellyn, Swansea) for the Claimant

Susan Chan (instructed by Treasury Solicitor) for the Defendant

Hearing date: 15 May 2014

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JudgmentSir Brian Leveson P:


  1. Part 4 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 establishes the Judicial Appointments Commission (``JAC'') which is responsible for or, by one or more of its members, involved in all judicial appointments in England and Wales. Section 63(2) requires all appointments to be on merit and s. 63(3) makes it clear that no person may be selected ``... unless the selecting body [that is to say the JAC] is satisfied that he is of good character''.

  2. On 18 June 2013, the JAC launched a competition for 42.5 full or full time equivalent District Judge appointments 17 of those posts to be filled immediately; the remainder of the successful candidates were to be placed on what is referred to as a ``section 94 list'', that is to say a list of persons suitable for appointment in response to a request that the Lord Chancellor expected to make for the appointment of District Judges.

  3. Mr Graham Jones, a solicitor and deputy District Judge, entered the competition but, although he progressed through its various stages, by letter dated 4 December 2013, he was informed that his application had been rejected because he was not of good character for the purposes of section 63(3) of the 2005 Act. The reason was that, as at 21 November 2013, he had seven penalty points on his driving licence. This was the result of two convictions: one for speeding in August 2010, resulting in a conviction of February 2011, for which he was fined £650 and received 4 penalty points; and a second for failing to obey a traffic signal in 2012, for which he received a fixed penalty and 3 points.

  4. He now challenges that decision by way of judicial review. On 10 April 2014, Hickinbottom J ordered that the issue of permission to proceed with the claim and the substantive claim were to be dealt with as a ``rolled-up'' hearing: a second challenge to a decision of the JAC in a different competition but based on the same grounds has since fallen away.

    Factual background

  5. Mr Jones has been a partner in the firm of Smith Llewellyn since 1989. In 2010, he was appointed a deputy District Judge and assigned to the London and South East Circuit. In February 2013 he was selected by the Family Division Liaison Judge for London and the South East to be a candidate to sit on private law Children Act cases and, on 7 May 2013, he was authorised to do so.

  6. The competition for a full time appointment as a District Judge started on 10 July 2013 and, having completed an application form, on 23 July he undertook the online assessment test. On 1 August, he was informed that he had passed the test and he was invited to attend a selection day on 17 September 2013. He was thereafter assessed to be ``an outstanding candidate for the post of District Judge''. At this stage, no judgment had been made as to his character and, indeed, the proposal prepared for the Selection and Character Committee meeting of the JAC on 21 November 2013, while raising the issue of his driving record and subject to its resolution, based on the free standing assessments and interviews, recommended him for immediate appointment as a District Judge. It is common ground that had it not been for the rejection on character grounds, he would have been put forward for appointment as a District Judge or, at the very least, placed on the section 94 list to fill future District Judge vacancies.

  7. When making his application, Mr Jones had been required to provide details of any previous convictions and he provided details of the two driving offences. On 9 October 2013, the JAC asked for and were provided with further details of the February 2011 offence. Mr Jones explained that there were no aggravating features affecting the offence, notwithstanding the size of the fine and the elevated number of penalty points in the first offence which was above the minimum of three.

  8. When the case came to be considered by the Selection and Character Committee (which is a committee of the entire JAC), Mr Jones' explanation of the February 2011 offence was provided and reported as accurate: the penalty imposed was not the consequence of aggravating features. The Committee's consideration of his application records (C/142):

    ``The Committee next considered Graham Jones, who had seven points endorsed on his driver's licence, having received a court fine and four points for a speeding offence in 2011 and a penalty for a failure to obey a traffic signal in 2012. The Committee agreed that he should not proceed in the exercise.''

  9. By letter dated 4 December 2013, Mr Jones was informed that his application had been rejected. He requested a review of the decision. On 9 December, he provided detailed representations in support of that review and arguing the case that his record as a solicitor, as a deputy District Judge and, indeed, as a driver, did not justify the conclusion that he was not of good character.

  10. On 12 December 2013, with the benefit of his representations, the Selection and Character Committee further reviewed his application. By e-mail dated 12 December the JAC confirmed its decision on the good character issue.

    The Framework

  11. The broad language of s. 63(3) of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, which places on the JAC the obligation to be satisfied that a candidate for judicial office is of good character has been the subject of...

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