Lawyer turned MP David Lammy asks government to set judicial diversity targets, government says no

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By Katie King on

‘Disappointed’ politician says ‘more of the same will not work’

David Lammy MP

David Lammy, whose recent review into the justice system included a recommendation to introduce judicial diversity targets, has used his social media account to lament the government’s non-commitment to it.

The Lammy Review concluded there are “deep-seated problems” within the criminal justice system which see black and minority ethnic (BME) individuals face “bias” and “overt discrimination”. He laid down 35 recommendations for the government to consider: “The time for talking is over.”

One of these urged Justice Secretary David Lidington and his team to take a more hands-on approach to improving judicial diversity. Statistics show 7% of judges are BME (10% in the tribunals). There is one ethnic minority judge in the Court of Appeal and none in the Supreme Court.

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Lammy believes his research demonstrates that this lack of diversity has a “significant effect” on what he calls the “trust deficit” between Britain’s BME communities and the justice system. He recommends the government sets “a clear, national target to achieve a representative judiciary and magistracy by 2025”. The MP for Tottenham, who is himself a trained barrister, also supports a more “modern” approach to judicial recruitment, including “talent-spotting” and “pre-application support”.

The subject of judicial targets has long been controversial. While human rights group JUSTICE, for example, has said targets “with teeth” are needed to improve diversity, others have been more critical. Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption famously, and controversially, said:

“The lack of diversity is a significant problem, but it isn’t the only one. It takes time. You’ve got to be patient… It has to happen naturally. It will happen naturally.”

Which side is the government on? While Lidington has said the government will consider all 35 of the Labour MP’s recommendations, proposals to set judicial targets have not been accepted.

Lammy has this morning used his Twitter account to describe his disappointment at the government having “not felt able to move forward on targets or goals to achieve a representative judiciary and magistracy”.

Harvard law graduate Lammy continued:

“My review demonstrated the lack of progress over the last decade in improving diversity amongst the judges that sit in our courts, and I am clear that more of the same will not work.”

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