The Advisory Panel on Judicial Diversity, announced by the Lord Chancellor in April 2009, has reported back its findings and put forward 53 key actions which it considered necessary to increase diversity within the judiciary.
Chaired by Baroness Neuberger, the key objectives of the panel were “to identify the barriers to progress on judicial diversity and to make recommendations to the Lord Chancellor on how to make speedier and sustained progress to a more diverse judiciary at every level and in all courts in England and Wales.”
The recommendations have been accepted by the Government and welcomed by the Lord Chief Justice. Although they are not entirely new, they seek to co-ordinate and increase areas of work already undertaken by the MoJ, JAC, the judiciary and the professions, and to ensure co-ordination and co-operation between these bodies.
In broader terms, the recommendations can be divided into the following areas:
- The concept of a judicial career and the continuous monitoring of judicial performance, with the opportunity to extend the JSB to become a judicial college, offering courses for candidates and judiciary alike (Recommendations 1, 36, 44, 45, 46 and 48).
- Encouragement of young people and members of under-represented groups, e.g. solicitors and lawyers in public service, to consider a judicial career and to gain experience of working with the judiciary, without the imposition of diversity quotas or targets (Recommendations 5, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19 and 50).
- Reconsideration by JAC of certain aspects of their selection process and consideration of the process by which appointments are made to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal (Recommendations 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 34, 39, 40, 41, 42 and 43).
- A review of forecasting mechanisms for vacancies and a uniform system of data gathering so that statistics gathered by JAC, MoJ or DJO may be used jointly (Recommendations 6, 28, 37 and 38).
- The creation of a Judicial Diversity Taskforce to oversee the initiatives arising from this report, ensure their implementation as a complete package, draw up a baseline from data against which to measure progress and monitor and evaluate each initiative to ensure its efficacy (Recommendations 2, 3, 4, 7, and 8).
- Consideration of judicial working conditions and attempts to remove myths about working conditions (Recommendations 49, 51, 52 and 53).
- Proposal that judges sit as deputies for no more than three renewable terms (Recommendation 35).
A Task Force has been set up to oversee the implementation of the recommendations and a number of them have been specifically allocated to the judiciary to take forward. These are:
There should be a fundamental shift of approach from a focus on individual judicial appointments to the concept of a judicial career. A judicial career should be able to span roles in the courts and tribunals as one unified judiciary.
Judges and members of the legal profession should engage with schools and colleges to ensure that students from under-represented groups understand that a judicial career is open to them.
Diversity and Community Relations Judges should have responsibility for organising contacts with institutions and the professions to promote a judicial career among those from underrepresented groups.
Judges’ marshals and judicial assistant’s schemes should be extended, openly promoted, transparent as to process, targeted at under-represented groups, supportive of the work of the courts, and properly evaluated.
The legal professions and the judiciary should put in place systems for supporting suitable and talented candidates from under-represented groups to apply for judicial appointment.
The Judiciary should expand the judicial job shadowing scheme.
Developing Judicial Skills courses approved by the Judicial Studies Board should be developed to help aspiring judicial candidates understand and develop the skills they need for judicial appointment.
There should be a staged period of induction where the appointed person has little or no experience of sitting judicially or of the relevant jurisdiction.
The selection process for vacancies in the most senior courts should be open and transparent, with decisions made on an evidence base provided by the applicant and their referees in response to published criteria. No judge should be directly involved in the selection of his/her successor and there should always be a gender and, wherever possible, an ethnic mix on the selection panel.
Clear career paths should be identified and published so that people understand the range of opportunities available within the judiciary. Such career paths should look across the courts and tribunals.
There should be comprehensive mentoring for all new entrants to the judiciary. This should also be available to established judges who want it.
An appraisal system owned and run by the judiciary should be implemented to cover all levels within the judiciary.
Selection processes for opportunities for career advancement should be open and transparent and based on assessment of suitability against published criteria.
The Judicial Studies Board should evolve into a Judicial College.
Work in progress
Work is already underway by the Judicial Office on some of the recommendations which includes:
- A pilot scheme to offer judicial assistants’ posts in the High Court to students from London universities;
- Forging links with the Bar Council, the Law Society and CILEX;
- offering one-day internships to students from the Social Mobility Fund, giving them a flavour of judicial life;
- forming links with local schools and universities to give young people the chance to meet judges and experience court sittings;
- expanding the work shadowing scheme to include a wider range of tribunals;
- passing information to DCRJs about local organisations and networks that may be of interest to them;
- exploring ways of providing information to judges on the possibility of a judicial career.
The Judicial Office is always keen to hear other people’s ideas and suggestions on these recommendations that could be taken forward.