Much has been said recently about the lack of diversity within the judiciary. Frankly, a great deal of this derives from an antiquated image of judges. The reality could not be more different. My jurisdiction has proved how easy it is to make sure artificial barriers to appointment are removed.
The Social Entitlement Chamber (Social Security and Child Support) hears appeals relating to state benefits. We hear more appeals than virtually all other tribunals put together. The last five years have seen a massive recruitment drive for both salaried and fee-paid judges. We are a major player within the whole, mainstream judicial system. Our decisions involve hundreds of thousands of people, billions of pounds of taxpayer money in some of the most contentious parts of state provision.
As a consequence of how our recruitment processes have been conducted, nearly two-thirds of salaried and fee-paid judges are women. Half the regional judges are women. The legal backgrounds are equally diverse – solicitors, local authority lawyers, Crown Prosecution Service lawyers and academics are in the substantial majority. Appointment is no longer the preserve of the bar.
It would not surprise me if recent appointments (within the last five years) to what I shall describe as the rank and file judiciary – the ones who deal with 95% of the day-to-day judicial work affecting millions of people a year – have equally effective appointment processes.
While there remains an issue with appointments to the senior judiciary, the reality is they account for a very small number of judges in this country. The judicial appointment process is clearly working and this is something to celebrate and promote. Anytime now we shall experience a significant shift in the makeup of the senior judiciary because of what has been happening with the rank and file judicial appointment process.
Nick Moss, District tribunal judge, Newcastle