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New action plan to boost judicial diversity

Under-represented groups will be better supported to become judges following the launch of a new action plan to increase diversity on the bench.

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A series of measures designed to encourage BAME and women, or with a disability to apply for judicial roles. These include more flexible working hours targeted guidance on applications, as well as a review of the eligibility criteria. These measures are designed to ensure no one group is being unintentionally deterred from applying.

The plan has been drawn up by the Judicial Diversity Forum (JDF), which includes the Lord Chancellor, Lord Chief Justice, the chair of the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) and leaders from the legal professions. It was set up in 2019 to provide strategic direction for improving diversity and challenge structural barriers to judicial appointment.

The announcement comes as a new report combines the diversity data of the legal professions, judicial appointments and the judiciary. It revealed that while significant progress has been made – women remain under-represented in judicial roles, making up only 26% of more senior positions in the High Court and above. Meanwhile, despite the number of BAME judges increasing in recent years, they comprise just 8% of all court judges and 12% of tribunal judges.

Lord Chancellor, Robert Buckland QC, said, "Encouraging diversity is vital if we are to have a legal system that truly reflects and represents the range of voices in our society. The figures show there are more women and people from black and minority ethnic backgrounds 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."

The action plan also includes steps to boost the number of solicitors appointed to the parts of the judiciary where they are currently underrepresented. Other measures consist of:

  • A 2-year pilot programme of targeted outreach and support activity by the JAC.
  • A unit within the JAC providing advice and guidance to potential candidates from underrepresented backgrounds including BAME, women, disabled and solicitor candidates for specific senior court and tribunal roles.
  • A review of the eligibility criteria for appointment with the aim of reviewing and removing any unnecessary barriers that discourage or prevent applications for judicial posts.
  • Continued support for Pre-Application Judicial Education programme (PAJE) and a campaign to reach over 200 applicants a year.
  • A revised Salaried Part-Time Working policy (SPTW) will be introduced which offers the judiciary a more flexible working offer – accounting for childcare commitments.
  • An ongoing recruitment programme to recruitment not only more, but more diverse magistrates.