The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) selected candidates for the specific purpose of increasing diversity in 14 recommendations for the bench, according to the commission’s latest statistics bulletin.

The figures also confirm that solicitors are still struggling to achieve judicial rank, with the proportion among recommended candidates falling. 

An equal merit provision, available for all JAC exercises undertaken from 1 July 2014, means that where two or more candidates are of equal merit, a candidate may be selected for a post for the purpose of increasing judicial diversity.

The JAC said 14 out of 308 recommendations between April 2015 and March 2016 were made following the application of the provision.

According to the bulletin, 22 judicial selection exercises attracted 2,439 candidates. The JAC made 308 recommendations for appointment.

Worryingly, the figures suggest solicitors have a poor chance of being recommended.

The bulletin states that, compared with previous exercises, a smaller proportion of recommended candidates were solicitors in the district judge (magistrates’ court) exercise – 24% compared with 53% in 2012.

The proportion of solicitor candidates decreased significantly through the process from application to recommendation in both the district judge (magistrates’ court) and deputy high court judge exercises.

While 43% of applicants for the district judge (magistrates’ court) exercise were solicitors, they accounted for only 24% of recommendations. Just over a third of applicants going to district high court judge posts were solicitors, but they accounted for only 5% of recommendations.

In the 'small court exercises', solicitors represented 23% of applicants and 13% of recommendations for immediate appointment. For the 'small tribunal exercises', solicitors accounted for 22% of applicants, but only 10% of recommendations.

None of the applicants for senior judicial posts between 2012 and 2015 were solicitors.

Overall, women made up over a third of all applications - and nearly half of those recommended for appointment.

Candidates who declared themselves to be black or minority ethnic represented 16% of all applicants and 9% of recommendations.

The exercise with the highest success rate for candidates from a BAME background was for the Valuation Tribunal chairmen and member posts, where they made up nine of the total 33 recommendations for immediate appointment.

Commenting on the findings, the Bar Council expressed concern that BAME applicants did less well than white colleagues ‘at every stage of the process’.

The council’s head of equality and diversity, Sam Mercer, said: ‘If you’re a white lawyer applying to become a recorder you have a one in 10 chance of success. If you belong to a minority ethnic group, that drops to one in 33.

‘White applicants are three times more likely to succeed. This inequality is unacceptable. We urgently need to work in partnership with organisations across the legal sector, and with government, to find out why this distortion is occurring and take immediate measures for correction.’

Mercer said that those appointed as recorders made up the pool from which the ranks of the senior judiciary are drawn.

Mercer added: ‘Since 2012, there have been no BAME applications or appointments at all to the Court of Appeal and there are still no BAME judges in the Supreme Court. A modern judiciary must be representative of the communities it seeks to serve.’