Question - Law

The composition of the judiciary is a long standing problem that can only be addressed by pro-active means. Do you agree?

The composition of the judiciary is a long standing problem that can only be addressed by pro-active means. Do you agree?

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Answer Expert #26261

Judicial diversity has long been acknowledged as a problem in the legal system of England and Wales. Back in 1992, Lord Chief Justice Taylor stated that “[t]he present imbalance between male and female, white and black, in the judiciary is obvious.”(1) Fast forward to the present day and little appears to have changed. As of 2016, just 28% of judges in England and Wales were women, with 5% identifying as coming from ethnic minority groups.(2) This compares to just over 50% of the population who are female, and 11% of people come from ethnic minority backgrounds.(3)

These disappointing figures mask some very real progress that the profession has made in recent years to make the judiciary more inclusive. The Judicial Appointments Commission – set up to ensure that judicial appointments are made via an “open and fair competition”(4) – has produced some spectacular results. At present, over 50% of court judges under 40 are female, with 8% being from ethnic minority backgrounds.(5)

The discrepancy between judicial recruitment, which appears to be close to replicating the demographic composition of British society, and the overall diversity figures of the judiciary highlight a need for proactive action. The higher echelons of the profession are still the almost exclusive preserve of white men.(6) Proactive measures need to be taken, otherwise we will be waiting at least two generations for a truly reflective judiciary. The credibility of the judiciary requires it to be representative, and measures need to be taken now to ensure that this happens.

References

(1)M. Berlins, “Why the judges' bench is still a white male zone” The Guardian [online] 1st March 2010 last accessed 23rd November 2016
(2)Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, “Diversity Statistics 2016” Courts and Tribunals Judiciary (2016), p.4 last accessed 11th November 2016
(3)Office for National Statistics, “2011 Census Analysis: Ethnicity and Religion of the Non-UK Born Population in England and Wales” (18th June 2015), last accessed 11th November 2016
(4)Judicial Appointments Commission, “What The JAC Does” (2016) last accessed 11th November 2016
(5)ibid
(6)C. Thomas, “Understanding Judicial Diversity”, Advisory Panel on Judicial Diversity (2009), p.4
last accessed 11th November 2016