By S Neeraj Krishna
THE UK has launched an “action plan” to increase diversity in the legal system and ensure it “truly reflects” all sections of society.
The Judicial Diversity Forum (JDF), led by legal luminaries, has chalked out a raft of measures to encourage more women and people from BAME backgrounds and with disabilities to apply for judicial roles, the ministry of justice said.
The plan was announced on Thursday (17) as a new legal diversity report revealed that though “significant progress” had been made, women remained “under-represented in judicial roles, making up only 26 per cent of more senior positions in the High Court and above”.
“Despite the number of BAME judges increasing in recent years, they comprise just 8 per cent of all court judges and 12 per cent of tribunal judges,” it noted.
The measure planned to boost diversity included more flexible working hours, targeted guidance on applications, and a review of eligibility criteria to ensure no aspirant is “unintentionally deterred” from applying for judicial roles.
“Encouraging diversity is vital if we are to have a legal system that truly reflects and represents the range of voices in our society,” said Lord Chancellor Robert Buckland QC, who led the JDF that was set up in 2019 to provide “strategic direction for improving diversity and to challenge structural barriers to judicial appointments”.
He said the report showed there were more women and people from BAME in judicial roles “than ever before”.
“But we must do more, and this action plan will help to ensure talented people from all walks of life can join the judiciary,” noted Buckland.
As per the action plan, steps will also be taken to “boost the number of solicitors appointed to the parts of the judiciary where they are currently underrepresented”.
The Judicial Appointments Commission will initiate a two-year “pilot programme of targeted outreach and support activity”.
A unit under it will provide guidance to aspirants from “underrepresented backgrounds including BAME, women, disabled and solicitor candidates for specific senior court and tribunal roles”.
A spokesperson for the ministry of justice added that a review of the eligibility criteria will remove “unnecessary barriers” that discourage or prevent professionals from applying for judicial posts
Another highlight of the plan was a revised salaried part-time working policy that will offer people the judiciary “a more flexible working offer — accounting for childcare commitments”.