Following on from official figures released earlier in the year, an investigation by BBC Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme has discovered that diversity within the judiciary is slowly but surely on the rise.
At the end of July 2015 the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary published statistics on judicial diversity, and it was found that the overall percentage of female judges has increased in the judiciary from April 2014 to April 2015, going from 24.5% to 25.2% in the courts. The number of black and minority ethnic judges across courts and tribunals was unmoving at 7%.
Speaking to the ‘Today’ programme’s legal affairs correspondent in July Lady Justice Hallett, vice-president of the Criminal Division and lead on diversity as appointed by the Lord Chief Justice, was optimistic on the progression of diversity in the upper levels of the judiciary. She said, ‘We have an extremely diverse judiciary … I think it’s a case of trying to make sure that we get our diverse judges up through the system through career progression.
We are making progress. I think it is slow, certainly not as fast as I would like at the upper levels of the judiciary, but we are getting there.’
The importance of communication between all levels of the judiciary and the wider public community is not understated. Currently over 100 diversity and community relations judges volunteer in England and Wales seeking to inform the public about what it is exactly that judges do and disperse misconceptions about them. The idea of using more accessible language during court proceedings and reaching out to overlooked ethnic minority groups such as Muslim imams and scholars is one which is being explored and introduced throughout the upper levels of the judiciary as a means of encouraging more diverse judges to become involved.
Dispelling widely-held stereotypes of judges and increasing the judicial diversity appears to be working, and it is hoped that the 2016 figures show an even further rise in the number of female and ethnic minority judges throughout the judiciary as a whole.
You can listen to BBC Radio 4’s piece on judiciary diversity here.