Solicitors stand no better a chance of being recommended as a judge than they did eight years ago, new figures prove.
Statistics released by the Judicial Appointments Commission show a third of recommendations for the 87 deputy district judge posts in 2014 were for solicitors, even though solicitors made up 58% of the 1,114 applications.
The JAC has described the result as 'disappointing' but said hopes are high that it can be reversed in years to come.
Around 6% of candidates who are currently a solicitor were among the 53 people recommended for the circuit bench. Around 12% of applications were from solicitors.
The proportions are exactly the same as were reported by the JAC in 2007, a year after the body was founded partly with a remit to increase the selection pool of the judiciary.
The figures show 42% of recommendation for circuit judge in 2014 were women – a fall from 2012 when the proportion was 48%. However, the pool of female candidates with the required experience was 30%, suggesting a higher number of women are being accepted compared to those available. The current percentage is a marked improvement on 2007 and 2008, when fewer than one-third of recommended people were women.
At this level of the judiciary, there appears no significant increase in women applying to be a circuit judge, with 31% of applications coming from women.
At deputy district judge level, 41% of successful candidates were women – roughly the same as in 2010 and 2012. This was again in line with the pool of suitable female candidates who applied.
Candidates with a BAME background made up 12% of applications for circuit judge and 4% of recommendations. At district judge level, BAME candidates accounted for 16% of applications and 7% of recommendations.
Ten High Court judge recommendations were made in 2014, of which three were women, two were people from a BAME background and none were solicitors - although one had started their career as a solicitor.
Christopher Stephens, chairman of the JAC, said the results showed a ‘solid performance’ for both women and BAME candidates.
He said figures for solicitors were ‘disappointing’, particularly for the deputy district judge exercise.
The JAC statistics are for October 2014 to March 2015 and include the first use of the equal merit provision, which means that where two candidates are equal, one may be selected for the purpose of increasing judicial diversity.