Appointment of Justices (2009-2010)

The first time a statutory selection process was used since the provisions of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 had come into effect. (The previous occasion on which the provisions were used was on a voluntary basis in 2008–09.)

Supreme Court:  Annual Report and Accounts (2009-2010)

There are 12 Justices of the Supreme Court, including the President and the Deputy President. Two of the Justices are from Scotland and one from Northern Ireland. As well as sitting in the Supreme Court, the Justices sit in the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. During the period covered by this report a selection commission sat to recommend a successor to Lord Neuberger, who became Master of the Rolls on 1 October 2009.

Key Points:

The first selection commission was successful to appoint the corrupt judge Sir John Dyson (photo insert), in April 2010, to the Supreme Court. He retired as a Supreme Court Justice in October 2012 to become the 96th Master of the Rolls and Head of Civil Justice, switching places with Lord Neuberger (the original Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, or Lord Law). In 2016, we forced Sir John Dyson (or Lord Dyson) out of the judicial office after providing him with evidence of his bribery and corrupt activities carried out in the name of Her Majesty The Queen. Only after providing him with the official letter as sent to Her Majesty the Queen, he accepted to retire early and on his own initiative rather than be impeached from office. He now stands to loose his courtesy title conferred upon him for life.

However, it has been noted in the Supreme Court: Annual Report and Accounts (2016-2017) that Lord Dyson has remained a member of the Supplementary Panel of Justices. This is currently under investigation.


Procedure for appointing a Justice of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom:

  • Governed by Sections 25 to 31 and Schedule 8, of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005.
  • Section 25 of the Act sets out the statutory qualifications for appointment. (Section 25 has been amended by Sections 50–52 of the Tribunals and Enforcement Act 2007 so that the qualifications are now:
    • Applicants must have held high judicial office for at least two years. (‘High judicial office’ is defined to include High Court Judges of England and Wales, and of Northern Ireland; Court of Appeal Judges of England and Wales, and of Northern Ireland; and Judges of the Court of Session.)
    • Alternatively, applicants must satisfy the judicial-appointment eligibility condition on a 15-year basis, or have been a qualifying practitioner for at least 15 years.
    • A person satisfies the judicial-appointment eligibility condition on a 15-year basis if he has been a solicitor of the senior courts of England and Wales, or barrister in England and Wales, for at least 15 years; and has been gaining experience in law during the post qualification period.
    • A person is a qualifying practitioner if he is an advocate in Scotland or a solicitor entitled to appear in the Court of Session and the High Court of Justiciary; or he is a member of the Bar of Northern Ireland or a solicitor of the Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland.
  • The meaning of ‘gaining experience in law’ is set out in section 52(2) to (5) of the Tribunals and Enforcement Act 2007 and relates to a period engaged in law related activities.
  • In July 2009 the then Lord Chancellor (Jack Straw  from 28 June 2007 to 11 May 2010, serving under Prime Minister Gordon Brown), invited Lord Phillips, the President of the Court to establish a selection commission.
  • The other members of the commission were:
    • Lord Hope, the Deputy President;
    • Lady Smith representing the Judicial Appointments Board in Scotland;
    • Baroness Prashar representing the Judicial Appointments Commission for England and Wales, and
    • Mrs Ruth Laird representing the Judicial Appointments Commission in Northern Ireland.
  • The statute requires at least one member of a commission to be a lay member – in this instance there were two.
  • The representatives from England and Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland are nominated by the Judicial Appointments bodies in the individual jurisdictions.
  • The legislation does not prescribe a process that a selection commission has to follow, although under Section 27(9) the commission must have regard to any guidance given by the Lord Chancellor as to matters to be taken into account (subject to any other provision in the Act) in making a selection.
  • In practice each selection commission determines its own process.
  • In addition the selection commission has to consult: the Lord Chancellor, the First Minister in Scotland, the First Minister in Wales and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Paragraph 27 of the Act sets out a number of requirements:

(i) Selection must be on merit.
(ii) A person may only be selected if he meets the qualifications set out at Section 25.
(iii) A person may not be selected if he is a member of the commission.
(iv) Any selection must be of one person only; and
(v) In making selections the commission must ensure “that between them the Judges will have knowledge of, and experience of practice in, the law of each part of the United Kingdom.”

  • The selection commission took the decision that the vacancy should be advertised and interested people invited to apply. An Information Pack was drawn up for potential applicants which was made available on…website or by request. The process is a lengthy one, and in this instance proved to be more lengthy than usual for a variety of reasons, including adverse weather conditions disrupting planned interviews.

The successful candidate, Sir John Dyson, was approved by Her Majesty The Queen in March 2010. His appointment was announced by 10 Downing Street on 23 March 2010.


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