Lack of judicial diversity weakens quality of justice, claims report
A report published yesterday, 6 November 2014, claims that the near absence of women and Black, Asian and minority ethnic judges in the senior judiciary weakens the quality of justice.
Judicial Diversity: Accelerating Change by Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC and Karon Monaghan QC was commissioned in April 2014 by Sadiq Khan, Shadow Secretary of State for Justice. The premise of the report was to suggest what a future Labour Government could do to ensure judges better reflect wider society.
The following points were followed in researching the report:
to identify what is and isn’t working with the current mechanisms in place to support moves to a more diverse judiciary;
how might we better manage the recruitment process for judicial vacancies and prescribe the requirements for judicial office so as to encourage diversity; and
what further, if any, role can the professional bodies play
in diversifying the judiciary
According to the report, the lack of judicial diversity undermines the democratic legitimacy of our legal system; it demonstrates a denial of fair and equal opportunities to members of underrepresented groups, and the diversity deficit weakens the quality of justice.
Further points raised by the report include:
Efforts by the Judiciary Appointment Committee (JAC), senior judiciary and legal profession to increase diversity have resulted in very limited success.
The value of a candidate to the creation of a diverse judiciary should be regarded as an element of merit or as a separate factor.
Barriers faced by potential candidates which adversely affect underrepresented groups and which should be removed or modified.
The pool from which judges are drawn needs to be opened up to more solicitors and to academics, lawyers in the public sector and legal executives.
Much better facilities for training and mentoring should be available through the Judicial College and otherwise, so as to improve the opportunities of other qualified lawyers from more diverse backgrounds.
Quotas should be introduced – without a requirement to appoint qualified women and ethnic minorities, we believe that the pace of change will remain intolerably slow.
The JAC have released a statement welcoming all debate on this subject and will carefully consider the recommendations – particularly those which are within their remit – and will consult with stakeholders in doing so.