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Supreme Court president: I want a BAME justice within six years

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Lord Reed also discusses ‘appalling’ treatment of junior barrister mistaken for defendant, in new wide-ranging interview

Lord Reed

The president of the Supreme Court has spoken out about the lack of diversity on the UK’s top bench, warning the issue risks becoming “shameful if it persists”.

Lord Reed, who succeeded Lady Hale as president of the Supreme Court in January, said he hoped to see a justice of black, asian or minority ethnic background, before he takes mandatory retirement in six years time.

The Supreme Court is currently made up of ten men and two women, all of whom are white.

In a wide-ranging interview with the BBC, Reed also commented on the treatment of Alexandra Wilson, a mixed-race junior barrister who was repeatedly mistaken for a defendant in court last month.

“I thought that was appalling,” Reed said. “Alexandra Wilson is a very gifted young lawyer, an Oxford graduate who has won umpteen scholarships, and for her to be treated like that was extremely disappointing to say the least.”

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Wilson, a criminal and family law barrister at 5 St Andrew’s Hill, received an apology from HM Courts & Tribunals Service for the “totally unacceptable behaviour”.

The Supreme Court president also took aim at a short clip, posted by the Home Office in August, which accused “activist lawyers” of frustrating the return of migrants to their home countries. The tweet has since been taken down.

Lord Reed said:

“I think that was unfortunate and I understand that the government has acknowledged that. There is no question of people being activist simply because they are doing their job. It’s important that people are careful in the language that they use.”

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