Martin Partington: Spotlight on the Justice System

Keeping the English Legal System under review

Diversity in the Judiciary

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For a number of years, it has been accepted that there should be greater diversity among the judiciary. The gender and ethnicity of the judiciary should broadly reflect the gender and ethnicity of the population as a whole. There has been considerable effort to more the judiciary away from their ‘white, male, upper middle class’ image.

The present Lord Chief Justice is determined that progress towards a more balanced judiciary should be advanced. The latest Judicial Diversity Statistics, published in July 2016, indicate that some progress has been made.

The headline findings are that in April 2016:

  • The number of woman Court of Appeal Judges remains the same as last year at eight out of 39 (21 per cent).
  • Twenty two out of 106 High Court Judges are women (21 per cent). In April 2015 the number was 21 (20 per cent).
  • In the courts the percentage of female judges has increased from April 2015 to April 2016 from 25% to 28%. In tribunals it remained stable at 45%.
  • The number of female Circuit Judges increased from 146 in April 2015 to 160 in April 2016 (from 23 per cent to 26 per cent)
  • More than half (51 per cent) of the 85 court judges who are under 40 years of age are women (53% last year). In tribunals, 64 per cent of the 56 judges under 40 are women (56% last year)
  • The percentage of judges who identify as Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME)is 5% in courts (6% last year), and in tribunals 9% (stable since 2015). This is higher for judges under 40 – 8% (6% last year) for courts and 14% (15% last year) for tribunals.
  • A third (34%, compared with 36% in 2015) of court judges and two thirds (65%, compared with 67% in 2015) of tribunal judges are from non-barrister backgrounds. Judges in lower courts more likely to come from a non-barrister background.

The conclusions that may be drawn from these findings is that some progress has been made in the appointment of women as judges; but the numbers of BAME judges remain low.

In order to encourage applications, particularly from women and BAME candidates, the Judges Council has established a Judicial Diversity Committee, which undertakes different events and initiatives to encourage a wider range of candidates to apply for judicial appointment. They have recently published their first report.

Their work includes:

  • sponsoring networking events;
  • running a judicial shadowing programme;
  • appointing judicial role models from the existing bench to provide advice and guidance to potential applicants.

One pilot initiative relates to developing ways to encouraging applications for appointment to the High Court bench from those who have not had practice experience as a barrister, including leading academics.

To see the Judicial Diversity Statistics, go to https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/judicial-diversity-statistics-2016-2.pdf.

The report of the Judicial Diversity Committee is at https://www.judiciary.gov.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/judicial-diversity-committee-progress-report-13-16.pdf

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Written by lwtmp

September 23, 2016 at 12:33 pm

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