But there are some encouraging signs in the lower ranks
There has been little progress made on judicial diversity this year — particularly in the higher courts — with the percentage of black minority ethnic (BME) judges taking a dip, and the percentage of female judges flatlining.
The newest round of judicial diversity stats shows the percentage of judges who identify as BME has dropped from 6% to 5% in a year. Though this figure jumps up to 8% when one looks at judges under 50 in isolation, even these higher figures fail to come close to the 14% national average for BME people in the general population.
It can be difficult to trace diversity trends over a one-year basis, because there’s not a huge amount of movement in terms of promotions. However, a quick scan of the figures from 2011 to 2016 reveals a consistent lack of improvement on the ethnic diversity front.
This is causing alarm, as evidenced by the Lord Chief Justice Thomas’ response to these stats. He commented:
[W]e are disappointed that there has been no improvement in either courts or tribunals in the total percentage of judges from a [BME] background. This is an area of concern and one where the Committee will be considering what more needs to be done.
On the subject of gender diversity, the number of female Court of Appeal judges has stayed the same (21%), while the percentage of female High Court judges has experienced a slight nudge upwards from 20% to 21% since last year.
The profession is very vocal in its outward commitment to judicial diversity, but these figures are definitely nothing to shout about. However, it’d be wrong to overlook the encouraging progress made at the lower ranks of the profession.
Though there’s been little movement in the Court of Appeal and High Court, the research has revealed that — overall — the percentage of female court judges has increased from 25% to 28% (an increase of 3%).
A look at the breakdown of gender diversity stats by age band also goes some way to exemplifying the judiciary’s fresh commitment to gender equality. Of the 85 court judges under 40-years-old, more than half (51%) are women. That said, this figure was 53% last year.
In view of the broadly disappointing nature of the figures, the judiciary is set to come under pressure to do something. Maybe sole female Supreme Court justice Lady Hale’s call for the introduction of judicial diversity targets will finally be acted on.