Judicial diversity goes backwards as Barristers dominate
This is a summary article on how barristers dominating the judiciary have led to a decline in legal diversity, as originally written by Monidipa Fouzder on the Law Society Gazette.
Statistics show that the judiciary is dominated by barristers with the number of non-barristers in a post lower than the figure published in 2014.
According to the Ministry of Justice, the latest figures show non-barristers represented 32% of all court judges. This was a 4% drop-off compared to the 2014 figures. This accounts for 64% of all tribunal judges which again was a 4% decrease compared to the 2015 figures.
The stark contrast between the recommendations of appointment is shocking. Applicants who have been solicitors made up 28% of the recommendations, compared to 72% who have been barristers. The statistics for practicing solicitors are 15% compared to 61% for practicing barristers. Recommendations rates for solicitors were the lowest at the shortlisting stage which proves that barristers were chosen more.
Ms. Stephanie Boyce’s thoughts
When it comes to court judges, the number of non-barristers leaving the judiciary on 20-21 was much larger than the number of new applicants or those currently in the post. Ms. Stephanie Boyce was worried about the overall flow and the number of solicitors who were leaving the judiciary. The statistics regarding ethnic minorities who are judges have increased slightly from 7% in 2014 and 10% in 2021. On the other hand, the percentage of judges who hailed from a black origin was still the same at 1%. The Lord Chief Justice declared ‘there is still work to do’.
She welcomes the commitment of creating an action plan and implementing that plan to tackle the representation imbalance of the bench. This report has laid the foundations for urgent steps and now what those ‘steps’ should be needs to be determined.
Statistics of Minority Backgrounds and the Revelations
The statistics imply significant inconsistencies in the final consequences for ethnic minority applicants and solicitors. When factors such as gender, ethnicity, and professional background are taken into consideration, these major differences are brought into the light.
Whilst the rate of women within the judiciary is increasing, there is a major concern about the low success rates in the application process and the slow progression through the judiciary for ethnic minority groups and solicitors. Although the recommendation rates for solicitors are low at the shortlisting stage, lawyers from minority backgrounds are now more likely than their white counterparts to become judges. Nonetheless, they are less likely to succeed in the long run.
The statistics reveal that whilst most minority ethnic personnel wanting to become judges have increased, the body that oversees of the appointments are less likely to put their names forward. This is very similar to the recommendation of solicitors as most solicitors are left hanging within the shortlisting stage.
The breakdown of the figures for the last three years shows the chances for black candidates being recommended are lower than ever before. The proportion of judges from Asian and other backgrounds within E&W has been increasing since 2014, but the proportion of the black candidates remains the same, citing huge problems within that category. Out of 5,000 judges, 5% are of Asian descent, while 1% make up black judges.
The data was carried out in 93 selection and recommendation exercises over a three year-study by the Judicial Appointments Commission. The data reveals the major differences and whilst change in the system is slow, there are ‘varying disparities’ that need to be re-examined and addressed quickly.