Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC has submitted a report to the Labour Party on the diversity of the UK judiciary, attracting a lot of comment and attention to a noted and worsening problem.
The report, prepared with prominent equalities Barrister and Judge Karon Monaghan QC, quantifies and explains the problem of the lack of women and BAME judges at all levels of the judiciary. There are currently no BAME judges in the Supreme Court (and only one woman), and only eight of the 38 Court of Appeal Judges are women. This places Britain as the fourth worst in Europe for judicial diversity.
The report makes clear that judicial homogeneity has potentially serious negative effects for the justice process. A non-representative judiciary damages democratic legitimacy, fairness and equal opportunities and the standard of justice, according to the Report.
The report focusses on recommendations for improving the status quo, including encouraging more solicitors (as opposed to barristers) to sit as judges, as the solicitors’ population is more diverse than that of barristers.
The report also finds that the time has come for quotas to be established for BAME and female representation in the judiciary.
The report was covered in the Guardian and also featured on the front page of the Law Society Gazette. The Labour Party has yet to respond to indicate whether the recommendations will be made into an official policy for the 2015 General Election.
Under the Equality Act 2010, there are powers for the Government to legislate to allow positive discrimination (such as the quota system proposed by Bindman and Monaghan), but these powers have yet to be enacted. A business seeking to implement positive discrimination in recruitment could expose itself to a litigation risk from unsuccessful applicants. However, there has been no challenge to the report’s finding that a more diverse judiciary would lead to a higher quality of judicial decision making and the proposal for quotas in the judiciary would therefore appear to be an idea whose time has come.
To read the full report please click here.
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