Robin Allen QC, Chair of the Bar Council’s Equality and Diversity and Social Mobility Committee, said today’s publication of the Lammy Review was a major contribution to the important and urgent task of securing a fair and equal criminal justice system.
He said: “The Lammy Report and all its recommendations require proper consideration. Criminal barristers in particular have a significant contribution to make in any national debate on the CJS.
“The Bar Council is committed to ensuring access to justice for all and we will continue to play our part in ensuring defendants and their families have the information they need to understand their rights and options.
“Transparency is critical to building trust and confidence in the CJS and we support any initiative to make sentencing remarks more accessible.
“We want our profession and the judiciary to reflect the diversity of the population it serves. As Lammy observes, we are making progress but it is slow. Improving diversity and supporting under-represented groups to enter the profession and progress into the judiciary is an important aspect of our work and something we devote considerable resources to.
“With proper consideration and communication, targets for the number of minority judges can play an important role in addressing under-representation. They focus the mind and have been used to try to improve the gender balance in UK boardrooms.
“However, targets are not the complete solution. Justice requires that good judges from a comprehensively diverse background are appointed. That is why the Bar Council’s immediate focus is on developing a foundation course in judgecraft – to be undertaken pre-application – that will demystify the skills needed for judicial appointment and increase the confidence, particularly of ethnic minorities, women, and those from a non-traditional background, when applying. This work, already well on foot, aligns closely with Lammy’s Recommendations 15 and 16.
“Finally none of these important and imaginative recommendations will happen without adequate resourcing. The Bar Council therefore calls on the Treasury to find the funds for the Ministry of Justice to take forward these proposals.”
The Bar Council will also be looking closely at how it can support work on the following recommendations:
- Recommendation 9: The Home Office, the MoJ and the Legal Aid Agency should work with the Law Society and Bar Council to experiment with different approaches to explaining legal rights and options to defendants. These different approaches could include, for example, a role for community intermediaries when suspects are first received in custody, giving people a choice between different duty solicitors, and earlier access to advice from barristers.
- Recommendation 14: The judiciary should work with Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service (HMCTS) to establish a system of online feedback on how judges conduct cases. This information, gathered from different perspectives, including court staff, lawyers, jurors, victims and defendants, could be used by the judiciary to support the professional development of judges in the future, including in performance appraisals for those judges that have them.
- Recommendation 12: The Open Justice initiative should be extended and updated so that it is possible to view sentences for individual offences at individual courts, broken down by demographic characteristics, including gender and ethnicity.
- Recommendation 13: As part of the court modernisation programme, all sentencing remarks in the Crown Court should be published in audio and/or written form. This would build trust by making justice more transparent and comprehensible for victims, witnesses and offenders.