On 5 December the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) announced that in a recent judicial appointments round ‘women were recommended for more posts than men for the first time’. Christopher Stephens, chair of the commission, commented that: ‘The statistics continue to highlight the success of women.’
In fact, the full picture of women’s progress in judicial appointments is far from a success.
While it is true that more than half the JAC’s recommendations for the selection exercises in the past six months were women, this claim relates primarily to a series of non-legal tribunal appointments made during this period. In the appointment exercises for legally qualified posts, the proportions of women recommended for appointment were lower than their respective proportions in the applicant pool.
The report states that ‘the analysis showed a general pattern of improving diversity among court judiciary among women’. This statement is only accurate with a selective reading of the statistics taking in much earlier appointments rounds. A fuller breakdown shows that since 2007, there has been no statistically significant improvement in the proportion of recommendations of women to any of the court judiciary posts.
Meanwhile, at the top end of the judiciary the picture remains unchanged. Women make up only 8% of the Court of Appeal. There is still only one woman in the Supreme Court, while 11 men have been appointed since the court was created in 2009.
Professor Kate Malleson and Professor Rosemary Hunter, School of Law, Queen Mary University of London; Kent Law School, University of Kent, Canterbury