The best candidates for the bench should be appointed ‘on an entirely level playing field’, the lord chief justice said last night in the latest contribution to the debate on improving judicial diversity.

However while apparently dismissing measures such as quotas, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd (pictured) said ‘robust judicial activism is entirely right in building a diverse judiciary’.

Lord Thomas was addressing the Temple Women’s Forum in Leeds last night. 

In what he called a ‘mission statement’, Lord Thomas said diversity is ‘the hallmark of justice itself’ and that the system can and must appoint ‘the best lawyers whatever their race, gender, social background or previous legal career’. Diversity can be achieved more quickly ‘by the vigorous pursuit’ of initiatives led by the judiciary. 

In the past, he said ‘we simply did not attract enough women and we did not attract enough people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. We are changing that’. The judiciary’s Diversity Committee plan ‘is on the road to delivery’, he said, hinting that the shortly to be announced results of the criminal and family recorder competition might show a more diverse intake. 

He also stressed the importance of directing efforts at employed lawyers, particularly in the Government Legal Service and Crown Prosecution Service. 

To continue making progress on diversity he said: ‘We must be tenacious in examining the system we currently use; this will no doubt include looking at the use of what is known as the tipping-point provision (on which I hope we will soon have data), and also being alert to concerns about unconscious bias.’

The full speech is here.