A support programme will launch later this month to help more women, black, Asian and minority ethnic (BME) candidates and those from a ‘less advantaged’ background become High Court judges.

Courts and Tribunals Judiciary said the initiative will take effect for those interested in applying to a High Court judge-selection exercise planned for January 2017. Thirty support places are expected to be available.

In a statement, CTJ said the initiative is being run under the terms of the lord chief justice’s statutory responsibility to encourage judicial diversity, adding: ‘The appointments system is now far more open and the judiciary is becoming more diverse year on year – demonstrated by the fact that there are now more women than ever in the High Court and in the Court of Appeal.

‘But, progress is slow and the lord chief justice wants to ensure candidates with first-class legal knowledge and experience are not disadvantaged or dissuaded from applying for the High Court simply through lack of knowledge of the application and selection process.’

Statistics published last week showed that in the High Court, 22 of 106 judges are women, compared with 21 last year. 

The percentage of court judges who identify as BME is 5% – one percentage point down on 2015.

The number of solicitors on the bench, meanwhile, is falling. Solicitors can apply for the support programme but they must also fall within one of the three eligible categories.

In addition to an intensive workshop on the process itself, the programme will give participants the opportunity to shadow a judge in the High Court. 

Applicants will be invited to submit a CV and complete a personal statement of no more than 500 words stating why they are considering applying to the High Court, how they believe their skills and experience would equip them for appointment and what they would hope to gain from the programme.

They will also be asked to give a signed undertaking that they are seriously considering applying for appointment to the High Court in the next selection exercise.

Once participants have completed the programme, they will have to compete on merit with the other applicants.

Applications for the support programme will open from 31 August. Interested parties are asked to contact diversity@judiciary.gsi.gov.uk to be notified when the process opens.