Joshua Rozenberg’s article ‘Balancing act’ (4 March) discusses Lady Hale’s lecture on equality in the judiciary and the question of ‘positive discrimination in senior judicial appointments’. The emphasis appears to be on the appointment of more women, but there is little discussion of African, Caribbean and Asian applicants.
Lord Irvine devoted much time endeavouring to persuade lawyers of African, Caribbean and Asian descent to apply for judicial posts. He frequently uttered the mantra ‘don’t be shy, apply’. Why then were few lawyers from such backgrounds appointed to the bench? A major factor may be the reluctance of some to risk suffering rejection, as their forebears had experienced.
Another may be the consciousness of these lawyers that, notwithstanding the history of African enslavement and indenture of their ancestors, many of their forebears were staunch supporters of the Crown and fought for Britain in two world wars. Substantial numbers of such lawyers are engaged in immigration and asylum, family, employment and criminal practice.
They may be conscious of the racially exclusionary application of a series of legislative measures over the last 50 years, commencing with the Commonwealth Immigrants acts of 1962 and 1968, which were designed to restrict immigration of Africans, Caribbeans and Asians to the shores of Britain, while on the other hand, they observe that currently over 502 million European citizens enjoy freedom of entry to the UK. They may also be conscious of the feeling of ‘not belonging’ or ‘otherness’ when they represent distraught clients, relatives and friends rejected at the borders, detained and/or deported.
Statistics confirm that more than two-thirds of judicial review cases in 2011 related to immigration and asylum cases, the vast majority of applicants being of African, Caribbean and Asian origin. It is submitted that there can be no ‘balancing act’, as few lawyers of African, Caribbean and Asian descent are likely to be keen to join the senior judiciary in the implementation of laws and immigration rules which they might consider to be arbitrary, unfair, unjust and racially discriminatory. See for example the pre-entry English language tests case, in which it was argued that the provisions were racially discriminatory: R (on the application of Chapti & Others) v SSHD  EWHC 3370 (Admin).
Colin Bobb-Semple, Greater London