As you know, JUSTICE has long been concerned about the composition and operation of our judiciary, with reports of our membership on the judiciary in 1972 and 1992. You may recall that our strategy for 2014-2016 includes an objective for JUSTICE to revisit this work on the judiciary. With ongoing fundraising efforts starting to bear fruit, we are delighted that we are now in a position to do this.
While we pride ourselves on having the best judges in the world, JUSTICE members will be aware that our senior judiciary is overwhelmingly white and male. For 25 years this has been identified as a concern for the credibility and authority of the judiciary, with assurances consistently given that as the demographics of the legal professions change, so too would the demographics of judges. This hasn’t happened in any sustained or meaningful way.
JUSTICE is keen to look at practical steps that can be taken to increase inclusion and diversity in our senior judiciary, both in terms of recruitment to and promotion within the judiciary. The work will focus on the Circuit Bench, High Court and Court of Appeal in England and Wales and on the UK Supreme Court. We are keen that the experiences of members in Scotland and Northern Ireland feed into this work, and hope that the report’s recommendations will resonate in those, and other, jurisdictions.
The draft terms of reference for the working party are set out below, and will be finalised by the group early in its life. The working party will have an initial meeting in July, starting work in earnest in September and reporting next Spring. We are delighted that Nathalie Lieven QC has agreed to chair the working party.
Working party members will be expected to commit to meeting for a few hours once a month from September 2016 to April 2017. Members of the working party, and other members of JUSTICE interested in the issue, may be asked to serve on sub-groups of the working party to be determined at the July meeting. Depending on capacity, we hope that members of the working party will be able to support the JUSTICE staff by assisting with the taking of evidence from relevant stakeholders and contributing to the research and drafting of the report.
To apply for the working party, please submit a brief CV along with a one-page covering letter outlining your interest, relevant expertise and availability to Laetitia Belsack – firstname.lastname@example.org – by midday on Monday 13 June. Please note ‘Judicial Diversity working party’ in the email subject line.
The final decision on membership will be made with a view to achieving an appropriate breadth of skills and experience. Please note that we will launch another working party (on the treatment of defendants with mental health problems in the criminal justice system) next month, so there will be more opportunities to serve in the near future.
We appreciate that safeguarding the quality of our judiciary while increasing diversity is a real concern to JUSTICE members. Even if you are not minded to apply for membership of this working party, we would welcome any initial thoughts you’re willing to share (by email to Laetitia please), and will issue a formal call for evidence in the Autumn.
JUSTICE working party on diversity of the judiciary
Draft terms of reference
Given the importance of a diverse judiciary for a credible justice system, this working party will explore:
- Current obstacles in respect of recruitment to the judiciary, including the attractiveness of a judicial career; statutory and non-statutory criteria for judicial office; feeders for the judiciary; and appointment processes;
- Current obstacles in respect of promotion within the judiciary, including the experience of minority judges on the Bench; and encouraging application for promotion and appointment processes;
- The approach to human resource management in respect of the judiciary, including building talent pools; talent management; and succession planning.
The working party will consider appointments to the Circuit Bench, High Court and Court of Appeal in England & Wales, and to the UK Supreme Court. We will focus on gender and ethnic diversity, recognising their relationship to social mobility, though will be mindful of the importance of maximising inclusion for people with other protected characteristics such as LGBT and disabled people.
We will consider how other jurisdictions have increased judicial diversity and how other ‘industries’ have addressed the need for greater diversity.