From 5-8 December 2017, Sir William Blair joined a small delegation from the Law Society and City Law School to present the final evaluation report of the judicial training programme for Supreme Court judges and senior clerks from Kazakhstan. This trip was undertaken under the auspices of the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan and kindly hosted by Madiyar Balken, a Supreme Court judge.
During this visit, the UK delegates met with a wide range of stakeholders including the Ministry of Education, the Judicial Council of the Supreme Court, the Academy of Justice of the Supreme Court, the “Bolashak” Scholarship Fund, and the Astana International Financial Centre. The UK Ambassador to Kazakhstan, Dr Caroline Browne, hosted a reception at her residence, which was attended by, amongst others, high profile government officials, law firms and the participants themselves. City Law School also prepared two intensive training sessions on civil procedures and remedies enabling the Kazakh participants to consolidate their knowledge on these areas of law.
The final evaluation report highlighted that the project provided the participants with a well-balanced learning experience, and a unique approach to studying complex concepts with a strong practical application. All participants concurred that, following this training programme, they developed a clearer understanding of the difference between the role of judges, barristers, and solicitors within the UK common law system. Participants also made reference to the fact that there are many judicial institutions and professional roles in the UK that do not exist in Kazakhstan, such as the Magistrates Court and the role of Recorders (part time judges), which could be relevant for the Kazakh judicial system.
The feedback commended the methodology, professionalism, and quality of the learning experience, for example:
Madiyar Balken said: “I strongly believe that the experience obtained from this project will have an impact, not only in helping to establish a common law jurisdiction in Kazakhstan but also in improving our national legal system on advocacy, civil procedure, court practice, the independence of judges and the legal profession, and the rule of law.”
Adiya Ramazanova, Head of International Relations at the Supreme Court of Kazakhstan stated: “Given that I work in the international arena, this project was very relevant to me. Because of this project, my self-confidence has increased, and my knowledge of the common law system and the UK legal tradition has expanded. I have also gained better knowledge on how the UK judicial system works, and the role [and interplay] between the different UK institutions including the Law Society of England and Wales, the Bar Council of England and Wales, the Ministry of Justice among others.”
In Sir William Blair’s keynote speech to the Kazakh delegates, he emphasised the significance of judicial independence, drawing from his own experience as a judge and a barrister in the commercial and financial field. He stated that judicial independence is a key ingredient of economic development and a building block for a sustainable economy.
Sir William Blair underscored five key elements necessary for a judiciary to perform their duties:
(1) There must be adequate infrastructure and working conditions to enable the judiciary to function properly.
(2) The process for appointing judges should be based on the suitability of candidates and the following of transparent criteria.
(3) There must be respect for the process of judicial decision-making.
(4) Judges must have security of tenure and freedom from arbitrary action. However, this does not mean that judges cannot be dismissed for serious misconduct or demand a job for life.
(5) The work of the judiciary should have the support of society. This includes the government, businesses, the legal profession, and other stakeholders.
The full evaluation report can be found below.