Despite the diverse make-up of the United Kingdom, our senior judiciary is dominated by white and privately educated men. The new JUSTICE report, Increasing judicial diversity, explores the structural barriers faced by women, people from visible ethnic minorities and those from less advantaged socio-economic backgrounds in reaching the bench. The report explains why diversity is a vital constitutional issue, calls for systemic changes to increase accountability and improve recruitment processes, and proposes more inclusive routes to the senior bench.
The report, launched on Tuesday 25 April 2017 at Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP in London, is the result of of a Working Party chaired by leading public law silk, Nathalie Lieven QC and bringing together a wealth of expertise, from academia, the civil service, the retired senior judiciary and the legal professions.
The Working Party believes that there is a significant pool of talent from which to draw a more diverse senior judiciary, but active steps need to be taken to recruit from beyond the independent Bar. As the report explains, the vast majority of judges in the Circuit bench and above were formerly barristers. While the Bar undoubtedly produces many excellent judges, a wider pool as well as an upward career path for judges already serving in lower courts would result in a stronger, more inclusive bench.
The report sets out a series of measures to encourage underrepresented groups to embark upon a judicial career and to give them a fair chance of appointment to the bench. The report’s recommendations include:
- Introducing targets “with teeth”, i.e. targets for selection bodies, with the “teeth” being obligations to comply and/or explain, reporting on progress to the Justice Select Committee.
- Creating a permanent “Senior Selections Committee” dedicated to appointments to the Court of Appeal, Heads of Division and UK Supreme Court. This Committee would, alongside the JAC, set targets for diversity for each level of the judiciary, reporting on its progress to a Parliamentary committee.
- Increasing accountability for diversity, through a general responsibility on selectors and the judiciary to encourage a much more diverse field of people to apply for senior judicial office.
- Introducing “appointable pools”, i.e. talent pools of suitable judges for each court. This requires a rolling, proactive programme of recruitment consisting of two stages: the first focussed on the qualities of the individuals applying, the second focussed on the needs – including diversity – of the court in question.
- An external review of selection processes.
- Creating an upward judicial career path, where junior lawyers can take up an “entry-level” position in the Tribunal system or on the District bench and stand a meaningful chance of promotion to the senior judiciary.
- A “Talent Management Programme” to enable talented judges to progress their career.
- Ensuring more attractive, inclusive career paths and working conditions, including making flexible working the default.
Nathalie Lieven QC worked alongside Sir John Goldring, Sir Paul Jenkins, George Lubega, Professor Rosemary Hunter, Diane Burleigh OBE, Sa’ad Hossain QC, Karamjit Singh, Kate Cheetham, Ruchi Parekh, Stephen Frost, Geoffrey Robertson QC, Tim Smith and Andrea Coomber (Director of JUSTICE). The Working Party was supported by Berwin Leighton Paisner LLP.
JUSTICE would like to thank Antonia Welch at Welch PR for her help with publicising the Increasing judicial diversity report and the wider work of JUSTICE. Find out more about Welch PR at www.welchpr.co.uk or contact Antonia on firstname.lastname@example.org