Whilst encouraged by the Government’s response to many of the recommendations in the Lammy Review, the Bar Council today expressed disappointment that key opportunities to address diversity in the judiciary have been missed. Chair of the Bar Council’s Equality & Diversity Committee, Robin Allen QC, said:
“It is critical to the public’s confidence in our justice system that the judiciary is representative of the communities it serves, whilst drawing on the best talent the legal profession can offer. We need to address the lack of BAME progression into the senior judiciary. This requires a collective effort from all bodies that hold this responsibility.
“While the Bar Council has joined others in introducing mentoring schemes to support those applying for judicial appointments at a grassroots level, this can only carry them so far. We cannot understand why initiatives such as the Pre-Application Judicial Education (PAJE) course, which has seen considerable investment over a number of years from both the Bar Council and partners across the legal profession, including the Ministry of Justice, and indeed was a recommendation in the Lammy report, has been omitted from the Government’s plan to address inequalities. This course would pave a way for potential judges to learn judge craft before making any judicial application, ensuring a consistently high standard of judicial practice from applicants of all backgrounds. The professions are ready to play their part in its delivery.
“Diversity targets can go some way to addressing inequality, and indeed we have seen some success with these relating to women on boards. However, all bodies responsible for improving the current state of judicial diversity should be under no illusions that much more than ‘business as usual’ is called for.”
Andrew Langdon QC, Chair of the Bar Council, echoed this sentiment, adding “As the Lord Chancellor has commented today, effective justice simply cannot be delivered unless everyone has full confidence in our Criminal Justice System. The Bar Council is committed to ensuring that all members of the legal profession, whatever their background, are supported in their pursuit of a judicial career as a realistic and attractive career option. We hope that initiatives such as the Pre-Application Judicial Education course which we helped to design, may still be adopted as a practical means of accelerating that process and thereby help to reinforce confidence in the justice system.”