Larissa Hutson (4 March) states that one of the statutory responsibilities of the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) is ‘to reach and encourage a wide range of applicants to properly reflect the full diversity of the profession’. The fact that the judiciary does not properly reflect the diversity of the legal profession, or indeed wider society, is readily borne out by statistics.
Only 15.5% of High Court judges are women and 4.5% black and minority ethnic (BME); 10.5% of Court of Appeal judges are women and none are BME; none of the five heads of division is a woman or BME.
It is self-evident that for the public to have faith in the judiciary, the latter must be composed of the very best individuals selected solely on merit. Asking Ms Hutson to complete a survey seeking her views on what motivates lawyers to apply – or not to apply – for judicial office can in no way be seen as representing a departure from this settled principle.
It does however represent a welcome attempt by the JAC to promote equality of opportunity and thus encourage applications from groups traditionally under-represented within the judiciary. Such an approach will, hopefully, lead to a judiciary still composed of the best individuals but also one which more accurately reflects not only the legal profession but the public as a whole.
Peter McTigue, senior lecturer in Law, Nottingham Law School