• Monday, April 15, 2024

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Latest data calls for swift action on judicial diversity

Data reveals progress on improving judicial diversity needs speeding up

By: Pramod Thomas

THE new statistics published by the ministry of justice on Thursday (13) indicated the need for accelerated efforts in enhancing diversity within the judiciary.

According to the new data, women now make up 37 per cent of judges in courts, compared to 54 per cent of tribunal judges.

There are just 67 Black judges across courts and tribunals, making up just 1.27 per cent of the judiciary, up 0.01 per cent on 2022.

In the last decade, the ethnic minority proportion of barristers increased from 13 per cent to 16 per cent, of solicitors from 15 per cent to 19 per cent, of chartered legal executives from 5 per cent to 11 per cent, and from 7 per cent to 11 per cent for all judges.

Across all legal exercises in 2022-2023, ethnic minority candidates accounted for 16 per cent of the eligible pool and 16 per cent of recommendations, the latest data revealed.

“There has been some progress in improving judicial diversity in the courts but more needs to be done. Women still only make up just over a third of judges. The proportion of the judiciary from a non-barrister background remains persistently low despite solicitors making up the majority of applicants,” said Lubna Shuja, president, Law Society of England and Wales.

“The selection process needs to be urgently reformed. The requirement to consult sitting judges on candidates’ suitability, known as ‘statutory consultation’, must be reviewed with serious consideration given to removing it altogether, as it is not working fairly or transparently at the moment.”

While the proportion of solicitor judges increased slightly, 32 per cent compared to 31 per cent in 2022, it is still down compared to 2014 when they made up 37 per cent in the courts.

The data from the ministry revealed that there is disparity for solicitors in legal judicial selection exercises compared to barristers, solicitors (48 per cent) made up more of the applications than barristers (35 per cent), but constituted a smaller percentage of the recommendations for appointment (35 per cent compared to 50 per cent of barristers).

Shuja said, “As recommended by the independent review which the Judicial Diversity Forum commissioned, all members should now set measurable impact targets, share underlying data to ensure activities are effective and have selection processes that appropriately recognise and weigh the experience and transferable skills of solicitors.”

She also suggested to develop a career path from the tribunals to the courts.

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