• Friday, August 12, 2022

HEADLINE STORY

Calls grow for judicial diversity as data reveal 95 per cent of senior judges in England and Wales are white barristers

Many lawyers from black and Asian communities are overlooked for judicial appointments: Sailesh Mehta

Representative image (iStock)

By: Chandrashekar Bhat

There are fresh calls for overhauling the judicial appointments process as the latest statistics reveal that 95 per cent of senior judges in England and Wales are white barristers.

Critics feel that the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) has a long way to go in fully meeting its objective of making the judiciary more diverse and ensuring that black and Asian minorities are not overlooked.

The ratio of ethnic minority judges has gone up to 10 per cent in 2022 from seven per cent in 2014 but they account for only five per of senior appointments to the high court and above.

The Times reported that ethnic minority candidates accounted for 23 per cent of applications across the 31 legal recruitment exercises in 2021-22 but only 11 per cent of recommendations.

On the other hand, white lawyers make up 77 per cent of applications and 89 per cent of recommendations. This shows the difference in their success rates.

Ethnic minorities constituted 16 per cent of barristers, 18 per cent of solicitors and nine per cent of chartered legal executives at the beginning of April this year. However, these proportions were lower for professionals with 20 or more years’ experience, at 13 per cent, 11 per cent and four per cent respectively.

About 65 per cent of all court judges are men, data showed.

The JAC which is responsible for selecting candidates for judicial offices in courts and tribunals in England and Wales has been the subject of criticism that its application process puts people from certain backgrounds at a disadvantage.

Former Society for Asian Lawyers chairman Sailesh Mehta said many lawyers from black and Asian communities were overlooked for judicial appointments despite them being talented. He said they would have stood a better chance of success if not for the process of “secret soundings”.

Mehta told The Times that the judicial “sausage factory… churns out identical judges generation after generation, who help to ensure that others in their own image are appointed”.

According to him, the lack of progress in achieving diversity in the judicial system is scandalous.

Labour MP David Lammy who pitched for reforms in the criminal justice system, told the newspaper, “there has been no or little progress in judicial diversity.”

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