Judicial Diversity: What are the changes?

Today’s figures from the Judicial Appointments Commission reveal that black and minority ethnic lawyers applying to become judges are far less likely to succeed than their white counter-parts. The Bar Council is calling on the legal sector to work together to improve diversity at the top of the profession.

Being appointed as a Recorder is the first rung on the ladder to a full-time judicial career. This year’s competition was the first in three years, making it more competitive than usual, but the Bar Council has serious concerns about diversity.

While 20% of white applicants for Recorder appointments were shortlisted, the corresponding figure for BAME candidates was only 10%. Of the white applicants who were shortlisted, 46% were recommended for appointment compared with only 29% of the shortlisted BAME applicants.

Black and minority ethnic candidates were more likely to be excluded at both stages of the process.

Sam Mercer, Head of Equality and Diversity at the Bar Council said:

 “At every stage of the process, BAME applicants did less well than their white colleagues.

“If you are a white lawyer applying to become a Recorder you have a one in 10 chance of success. If you belong to a minority ethnic group, that drops to one in 33.

“White applicants are three times more likely to succeed. This inequality is unacceptable. We urgently need to work in partnership with organisations across the legal sector, and with Government, to find out why this distortion is occurring and take immediate measures for correction.

“Those appointed as Recorders make up the pool from which the ranks of the senior judiciary are drawn. Lack of diversity at this level has huge implications for the ethnic make-up of our most influential and respected tier of public servants.

“Since 2012, there have been no BAME applications or appointments at all to the Court of Appeal and there are still no BAME judges in the Supreme Court. A modern judiciary must be representative of the communities it seeks to serve.”


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