Bar Council backs Truss’s calls for ‘wider pool of talent’ for judicial selection

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By Polly Botsford on

Even though this means more non-barristers becoming judges


Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, the current (female) chairman of the Bar Council, stated today that the council supports the (female) Lord Chancellor’s proposals for increasing diversity in the judiciary launched this week.

Doerries stated:

Judges, and the legal professions from which they are drawn, must also reflect the communities they serve, and one of the challenges is the retention and progression of women and ethnic minority practitioners.

Liz Truss’s proposals, launched at an event organised by the “First 100” marking the centenary of when women were first allowed to enter the legal profession, include four items.

The first is “a talent competition” for selecting the best 100 candidates for new recorder posts in February 2017. Then Truss wants to introduce direct-entry options to positions in the High Court so that candidates could be “academics, in-house counsel or Magic Circle solicitors”. She also wants to have a fast-track process for deputy high court judges.

Last but not least, there is a proposal to shift the focus towards a requirement for “potential” rather than actual experience in what she refers to as “judgecraft” when selecting judges.

The most recent judicial diversity stats show that women make up 28% of judicial posts in courts (up from 23% in 2012) and 45% in tribunals. The Supreme Court’s stats are a bit more stark: of the eleven justices who will hear the Article 50 appeal next month, only one is female.

Support from the Bar Council comes only days after it criticised Truss’s silence over unprecedented attacks on the judiciary in the Telegraph and Daily Mail last week – the latter branding judges “Enemies of the people” (a direct quote from the Stalinist era).

The Government’s proposals on increasing diversity follow on from concerns raised in the Lord Chief Justice’s recent annual report about the ability to recruit enough judges into the judiciary.