Efforts to attract non-barristers on to bench “not working”

Burnett: Encouraged by the figures about female judges

Efforts to attract solicitors and chartered legal executives to the bench have not worked, the latest figures on the make-up of the judiciary have indicated.

However, there is a better story to tell about the growing number of women becoming judges.

The proportion of court judges from a non-barrister background decreased by three percentage points between 2015 and 2019, and five percentage points for tribunal judges.

The judicial diversity statistics 2019 said that representation of those from a non-barrister background in court judges was highest among the district bench, with 72% of district judges in county courts.

By contrast, only 13% of circuit judges and 6% of recorders were not barristers prior to appointment. Given the relatively low numbers of more senior positions, “some caution should be taken when interpreting results for positions above circuit judge”, it said.

In 2019, 32% of judges in the courts and 46% of tribunal judges were women, as were 51% of non-legal members of tribunals – over the past five years, there has been a seven percentage point increase in women’s representation among court judges.

Around half of court judges aged under 50 were women. Women outnumber men among tribunal judges aged 40-49 (54% women) and 50-59 (52% women)

Some 23% of judges in the Court of Appeal and 27% in the High Court were women, along with 42% of Upper Tribunal judges.

Of the 143 court judges appointed to a senior role in 2018/19, 45% were women.

The representation of lawyers from a black and minority ethnic (BAME) background increased by two percentage points in each group, to 7% among court judges, 11% for tribunal judges, and 17% for non-legal members of tribunals.

The proportion of BAME judges joining the judiciary was higher than those leaving it, the report said: 11% of new court judges were BAME compared to 6% of those leaving, with the figures for tribunal judges 12% and 5% respectively.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett, writing on behalf of Sir Ernest Ryder, the Senior President of Tribunals, as well, said he was “encouraged” by the figures about female judges.

“The judicial diversity committee, chaired by Lady Justice Hallett, has set out the steps it plans to take over the next 12 months to reach a more diverse pool of lawyers and focus its efforts on attracting new talent and supporting career progression.

“The committee will shortly publish its annual plan and report. Amongst other measures, the committee is working to support and encourage solicitors to join the judiciary.”

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