The number of black or minority ethnic judges remains low, latest figures show, as the lord chief justice predicted greater diversity in the courts and tribunals over time.

The 2015 Judicial Diversity Statistics show there were 159 of 2,686 (5.9%) court judges who declared they were black or minority ethnic (BME).

The highest proportion (11.3%) of BME judges were aged between 40-49, compared with 2.5% of judges over the age of 60 who were BME.

‘These figures suggest the overall percentage of BME judges will increase over time,’ the report says.

The percentage of judges remained steady over the past four years, with 154 out of 2,992 (5.1%) court judges declared as BME in 2011 compared with 159 out of 2,686 (5.9%) in 2015.

The south-east had the highest percentage of BME judges (71 out of 803) compared with Wales, where one out of 113 judges declared their ethnicity as BME.

Of the 1,868 tribunal judges who declared their ethnicity, 177 (9.5%) were BME – the same figure for 2012.

Lord chief justice Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (pictured) said it was ‘disappointing that there has been little marked improvement’ in the percentage of judges from a BME background.

‘However, I believe the percentage of BME judges under 50 years of age provides some encouragement for the future’.

Lord Thomas said ‘clearly there is more to be done’ and a ‘real need to ensure that there is a level playing field and everyone has a genuine opportunity when applying for a judicial appointment’.

Women accounted for a quarter of judges in the courts. On 1 April, 817 out of 3,238 (25.2%) of judges were women, compared with 24.5% the previous year.

Over half (53.3%) of female judges were under 40, compared with 13% of judges over the age of 60 who were women.

Of the 38 Court of Appeal judges, eight were women. There were seven in April 2014.

The number of female circuit judges rose from 131 in 2014 to 146 in 2015. Women accounted for more than half (53%) of the 60 courts judges under the age of 40. In the tribunals, 56% of the 89 judges under 40 were women.

Meanwhile, more than four out of five (83.2%) district judges in the county courts came from a solicitor background.

Over a third of judges (35.7%) in the courts were not barristers, a slight decrease from 2014 when 36.6% of court judges came from a non-barrister background.

Lord Thomas said he wanted to see ‘a greater number of solicitor, government legal service, CILEx and academic candidates applying’.