In Judgement of Judges

What’s going on here?

President of the Supreme Court, Baroness Hale, remarks that there is still a way to go to achieve diversity in the judiciary.

What does this mean?

Last month, Baroness Hale highlighted some unnerving truths about the slow progress being made to secure a judiciary that accurately reflects the general public.

Hale was interviewed in a feature commemorating 100 years since the introduction of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act 1919, which broke down the legislative barriers for women to enter the profession. Whilst this is a milestone to celebrate, alongside currently having three female judges in the Supreme Court, Hale said "there's definitely a way to go".

What’s the big picture effect?

The comments made by Lady Hale highlight the difficulties of attaining a diverse, experienced judiciary in the current system that the UK uses to appoint senior judges. It is easy to agree with her view that enforcing a compulsory age of retirement of 70 on judges is a "waste of talent". However, Lady Hale acknowledged that one of the factors slowing down greater diversity in the judiciary is the challenge in progressing to senior positions that are already filled, stating "the longer the old, white men [stay on]... the fewer posts there are for the younger more diverse judges".

Lady Hale acknowledged that the percentage of ethnic minorities was inevitably going to be lower because they have only recently joined the profession. Nevertheless, it would seem that the pace of diversification is simply too slow, and effective measures need to be put in place.

The use of positive discrimination was traded in favour of appointments based on merit, although Lady Hale did express a desire to have a gender percentage of "60/40 either way".

Theres a real concern generated by a judiciary that is unreflective of society. Lady Hale questioned how the public could respect and abide by judges if they appear as “beings from another planet". It is clear that there is much to be done to address the severe imbalances and misrepresentations of the judiciary. There is no doubt that progress will be slow, but there is hope that eventually there will be a judiciary that accurately reflects the diverse nature of the general public, bringing expertise from various backgrounds.. 

Report written by Grace E.

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