In the Media

Diversity boost for lowest rung of judiciary

PUBLISHED December 7, 2012

Friday 07 December 2012 by Catherine Baksi

A quarter of the lawyers recommended as deputy district judges (magistrates' courts) in the most recent round of appointments were black, Asian and minority ethnic (BME), statistics released by the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) this week reveal.

The Commission received almost 1,500 applications for the 28 positions available in the selection exercise earlier year - or 54 candidates for each post.

The competition was open to the 112,000 lawyers who met the eligibility criteria of having at east five years' experience in the legal profession.

BME lawyers made up 10% of the eligible pool, accounted for 18% of applicants and were 25% of those selected.

The results show that the proportion of successful BME candidates has more than doubled since the last selection round in 2009 when a similar proportion applied, yet formed only 12% of the 26 appointments made.

A reasonable gender balance was also evident in appointments. 46% of the positions went to women, who made up 44% of the eligible pool - a slight improvement since the previous exercise.

Commenting on the figures, JAC chair Christopher Stephens (pictured) said: 'Selections, as always, were made solely on merit and I am delighted to see such a strong performance from BME lawyers and continued good results for women.'

He added: 'There is still a long way to go on judicial diversity and we hope this success is consolidated in other competitions, with the results feeding through to salaried and more senior appointments in the future.'

The data also shows that barristers applied in much larger numbers in this competition than in the previous exercise. In 2009, 221 applied, compared with the 535 who applied in this round.

But solicitors held their own, being as successful as barristers in being selected. Solicitors made up 52% of applicants and 50% of those selected, compared to barristers who were 36% of applicants and 36% of those selected.

The age of successful candidates, reported for the first time, shows that 75% were 45 and under and seven candidates were 35 and under.