Top lawyers Tim Eicke QC, Jessica Simor QC and Murray Hunt have been revealed as the nominations for the next European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) UK judge. The UK’s current judge Paul Mahoney, will be stepping down on his 70th birthday in September.
So who are Tim, Murray and Jessica?
Tim Eicke, from Essex Court Chambers, has been a barrister since 1993 and was appointed as Queen’s Counsel – a title only given to Britain’s most senior lawyers – in 2011. Eicke boasts experience with EU, human rights and civil liberty cases. In 2014 a top legal directory called him “one of the strongest advocates in EU law and its application to human rights.” Eicke is a dual English and German citizen and speaks three languages.
Jessica Simor, a barrister from leading human rights practice Matrix Chambers, was appointed as a Queens’ Counsel in 2013. In 2012, a top legal directory stated that she was “one of the best human rights lawyers in the country.” Jessica worked in the European Commission on Human Rights (now part of the European Court of Human Rights) in 1995. Most recently she has been writing a report on global labour standards in the retail garment sector to help eliminate modern slavery.
Murray Hunt graduated from Oxford University in 1988 and returned there in 2011 as a Visiting Professor in Human Rights Law. He is the Legal Adviser to the Parliamentary Committee that scrutinises new laws to ensure they meet human rights standards. Hunt was a barrister for 12 years and was one of the founding members of Matrix Chambers. He has written a book on how a more democratic model of human rights protections could be achieved.
How do you become an ECHR judge?
Well, it’s just the teensiest bit challenging! First, you have to be of “high moral character”, have a “high level of expertise“, and hold “the qualifications required for appointment to high judicial office”. Once you’ve satisfied this lofty criteria, applicants are subjected to a rigorous selection process.
The Selection Process
Phase one – national selection:
- The Judicial Appointments Commission of England and Wales (JAC) – the independent body tasked with selecting candidates for judicial office – runs the recruitment campaign. It is presided over by the head of the judiciary, the Lord Chancellor, currently Michael Gove.
- Applicants submit applications in line with a standardised form drafted by the Council of Europe. You can see our three candidates’ application forms here.
- A selection panel of judges, public servants and legal academics shortlist up to ten candidates and conduct interviews.
- Meanwhile the JAC collects evidence on the applicants to help the decision-making process.
- The panel gives the Lord Chancellor a detailed report on the final three candidates (one of whom must be from the “under-represented sex” of the Court – that is, from whichever gender makes up less than 40% of the Court – currently women).
Phase two – international scrutiny:
- The three candidates are interviewed again, this time by a Committee from the Council of Europe – the international organisation that runs the European Court of Human Rights.
- If the Committee approves the list of candidates, it invites the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to vote on them by secret ballot. PACE is made up of 324 Members of Parliament from the 47 countries of the Council of Europe.
- PACE votes on the candidates and the one with most votes will be elected.
The current UK judge, Paul Mahoney, will be celebrating his 70th birthday by retiring from the ECtHR on 6 September 2016. Judges at the European Convention on Human Rights can only hold office for nine years or until they reach the age of 70.