120-year wait “unacceptable”, says new Law Society president
New research by the Law Society suggests that it will take more than 120 years for the judiciary to be fully representative of the current population in England and Wales.
The delay lies in the slow increase in the proportion of black judges which has grown from just 1.02% in 2014 to 1.09% this year, according to MoJ statistics. There are currently no black judges sitting in the Court of Appeal or the High Court.
Lubna Shuja, president of the Law Society, said: “At that rate, it would take until 2149 for the proportion of the judiciary who are Black to match current estimates for the general population (3.5%).”
She added that “as we near the end of Black History Month, which this year focuses on ‘action, not words,’ it is unacceptable that Law Society research has found it could take over 120 years for women, Black and Asian people to represent the society they serve on the bench.”
Progress has been faster for female and Asian representation amongst the judiciary. Just under a quarter of judges in England and Wales were women whilst 2.5% were Asian in 2014, numbers that have now risen to 35.4% and 4.8% respectively.
On these trends, the judiciary will reflect the proportions of these groups in society with half of all judges being female in 10 years’ time and Asians making up 8% of judges by 2033.
Shuja, who is the first Asian and Muslim president of the Law Society, said:
“We need a judiciary that truly reflects our diverse society. We must take action and make real, lasting change so our judges can represent the people who come before them in court. We urge the UK government to address the structural barriers that are holding back talented candidates.”
She added: “We know that progress does not happen overnight, but we cannot wait over 120 years for women, Asian and Black judges to be fully representative on our court benches.”
The Law Society has produced a report into diversity and the judiciary which can be viewed here.