Approaching the Lady Chief Justice’s Office with requests for judicial participation in research projects.
The aim of this guidance is to promote a consistent approach to requests for judicial participation in:
- research into the judicial process; and
- other aspects of court administration or procedure.
While we would like to assist with research as best we can, judicial resources are limited, and the judiciary are unable to help all applicants by participating in research. This office can only deal with requests for participation by those judicial office holders who sit in the courts for which the Lady Chief Justice is President (the Court of Appeal; the High Court; the Crown Court; the county courts; the magistrates’ courts and the coroners’ courts – see section 12 of the Justice (NI) Act 2002).
Research applications will not normally be accepted from: secondary school students, undergraduates, or those undertaking post-graduate Masters and other taught courses.
Similarly, we would not normally accept foreign research applications, unless there is a unique reason to encourage comparative study in a particular subject.
There is a great deal of information about judges and the judicial process on the JudiciaryNI website. Information about the courts administration can be found on the Department of Justice website.
Who approves judicial participation in research?
Research seeking the participation of judicial office holders will be sent for consideration to the Lady Chief Justice’s Office.
The Lady Chief Justice may ask other relevant members of the judiciary or NICTS as applicable for their views on the appropriateness of releasing the information sought by the research application and whether said information is deliverable. Those views will be taken into account when making a decision.
What to include in your application
Researchers who want to conduct research involving a judicial office holder must submit a formal application, which clearly sets out:
- the aims and objectives of the research;
- how the research will benefit the judiciary or the courts administration, and improve or promote the administration of justice;
- how ethical considerations have been addressed (and ethical approval, if appropriate);
- details of the proposed methodology, including sampling, recruitment approach, and analysis, with any supporting documentation;
- an overview of relevant and similar research already in the public domain;
- what alternative sources of data/information have been considered before an application for judicial participation was made;
- if interviews are included, an outline of the areas under discussion as well a list of all questions to be asked to judicial office holders;
- the anticipated start date and duration.
All applications should be set out in a Word document, addressing each of the bullet points above.
Approval for judicial participation will only be granted if, in the view of the Lady Chief Justice’s Office:
- the proposed research is in the public interest;
- the nature of the proposed research makes judicial participation necessary;
- judicial discretion and independence would not be impaired by participation in the proposed research, and members of the judiciary would not be drawn into areas of political controversy or commenting on the merits of government policy;
- participation will not impose an undue burden on members of the judiciary, recognising that judges’ time is already very limited as a result of COVID-19;
- members of the judiciary will not be identified in any reports;
- a clear outline of the recruitment and sampling approach has been provided;
- members of the judiciary will not be asked about the merits of individual cases;
- the researcher undertakes to provide a final draft copy of any report to the Lady Chief Justice’s Office and the judiciary involved in the research, to give them an opportunity to comment upon it before a report is published - allowing time for them to read the transcript, check its accuracy and ask for any part of it to be amended or deleted;
- the researcher undertakes to provide the Lady Chief Justice’s Office and the judiciary involved in the research with the output(s) where the interview is used and to check if they are happy with the way the interview is used. They can veto how the interview is used in that publication and are informed at the start of the process that they can withdraw their consent at any time.
Any application should set out how it is considered the research proposal meets the above criteria. If the research project is approved, the Lady Chief Justice’s Office will inform the judges who are being asked to participate.
Please submit requests regarding judicial involvement to: LCJOffice@judiciaryni.uk
During normal working periods, excluding judicial vacations, the application process can take approximately eight weeks. If the research is required to be undertaken by a particular timeframe this should be included in the application which should be submitted no later than three months in advance.
Non-judicial involvement in research applications
All research projects that seek access to the courts but do not propose judicial involvement should apply separately to the NICTS Information Access Team at Informationaccessnicts@courtsni.gov.uk. This includes research proposals that seek data from the courts (including access to case files). Requests for court staff to complete questionnaires or be interviewed should be directed to NICTScomms@courtsni.gov.uk.
Information on how to request an audio recording or written transcript of court proceedings should be made to NICTS in accordance with the guidance on its website.