Latest figures on judicial appointments leave little cause for celebration according to an influential human rights group today, calling for more transparency about the process.
Responding to the Judicial Appointments Commission's latest official statistics bulletin, Justice director Andrea Coomber said women, BAME (black, Asian and minority ethnic) people and solicitors continue to be appointed in far fewer numbers than white, male barristers. There is no mention of the social mobility data the commission now collects, she added.
Latest figures show that the commission received 1,924 applications for selection exercises conducted between 1 April 2016 and 31 March 2017. Of the 746 declared solicitor applicants, 14 were recommended for a judicial post. BAME candidates represented 6% of the 149 recommended in the exercises.
In April, Justice published a report encouraging the commission's published data to be more transparent. Last week's statistics 'are not as transparent as we would like', the group said.
The commission provides diversity figures for applications, shortlisted applicants and recommendations. However, Justice said the shortlisted applicants cover several stages - from paper sift right through to interview. 'It is impossible to tell where (and why) certain groups - notably BAME people - fell out', the group said.
Justice welcomed the the commission's decision, since October 2015, to collect data on applicants' education background, but noted that neither data nor analysis can be found in the latest figures.
The JAC is also accused of focusing on positive news at the expense of forthright analysis. For example nine women and 20 men were appointed in the small group court exercises (SGCE), Justice said, a point not mentioned alongside the 'key finding' about women's success rate. 'A key finding for SGCE could equally have been, but was not, that twice as many men were appointed as women,' the group said.
Justice urged selectors to 'take some responsibility' when 'far too few' women or BAME people apply in competitions.
The commission's bulletin states that exercises with fewer than 10 recommendations are grouped to maintain candidate confidentiality.
The Gazette understands that social mobility data will be published in the commission's next statistical bulletin. It could not be included in the latest report due to pre-election 'purdah' rules.
Meanwhile the Bar Council said the latest figures underline the need for targeted support and training.
Robin Allen QC, chair of the council's equality and diversity committee, said: 'We cannot go on having no BAME applications for senior judicial roles. The rule of law requires a fully diverse judiciary.'
The council is working with the commission, Ministry of Justice and other bodies to develop a pre-application judicial education programme. A 'high proportion' of places will be reserved for BAME, women and disabled lawyers.
Judicial appointments: intensive mock interview workshop (7 August 2017, London)
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