Solicitor denied judicial appointment because of points on driving licence loses JR

Courts: differences between disciplining judges and appointing new ones

A solicitor who was denied appointment at a district judge because he had seven points on his driving licence has failed in his challenge to the decision of the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC).

Giving the judgment of the Divisional Court, Sir Brian Leveson said JAC guidance that having more than six points on a licence will normally prevent applicants from succeeding was lawful.

The unusual judicial review was brought by Graham Jones, a partner at Swansea firm Smith Llewelyn and a sitting deputy district judge.

Assessed as an “outstanding candidate”, his application last year to be appointed a district judge would have been successful, it was agreed, but for two driving offences: a speeding offence which resulted in a conviction, £650 fine and four penalty points, and failing to obey a traffic signal, for which he received a fixed penalty and three points.

The JAC’s 2013 guidance gave its selection and character committee discretion not to enforce the six-point rule, but it did not choose to exercise it in this case.

Lord Justice Leveson rejected Mr Jones’s challenge to the JAC’s good character policy, saying: “In my judgment, the JAC is entitled to take the view that public confidence in the standards of the judiciary would not be maintained if persons who are appointed to judicial office have committed motoring offences resulting in penalty points at the level identified in the guideline within four years of their appointment.”

He further ruled that the policy was properly applied and that it was a rational decision. That Mr Jones continued to sit as a deputy district judge was not inconsistent as “there are important differences between disciplining those who hold judicial office… and appointing new judges”, Leveson LJ said.

In any event, the Guide to Judicial Conduct requires sitting to judges to report the fact that they have accumulated more than six points to the Lord Chief Justice. It is then a matter for the Lord Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor to decide what action, if any, to take. “In other words, there is a comparable level of offending which, for those who hold judicial office, triggers the requirement of reporting.”

After dismissing the judicial review, Lord Justice Leveson said: “Given the outstanding success that Mr Jones otherwise had in the district judge competition, however, I conclude by hoping that, as the first of his convictions will fall away later this year, he will consider re-applying when the next competition is launched.”

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