Wednesday 23 May 2012 by John Hyde

Senior judges will reach out to the legal profession by mentoring those who feel excluded from high office.

Speaking at a conference yesterday, Senior Presiding Judge Lord Justice Goldring revealed members of the profession previously put off because of their gender, race or sexuality will be put in touch with judges to offer advice and act as role models.

An event is planned for November to bring together the judiciary with the Bar Council, Law Society and CILEx as part of the plan. Goldring reaffirmed the commitment to encouraging a more diverse judiciary, backed up by the recent appointment of two senior liaison judges dedicated to that cause.

He also welcomed proposals in the Crime and Courts Bill to extend flexible working for judges and enable the Judicial Appointments Commission to apply the 'tipping point' provision. This will allow them to take protected characteristics (such as race and gender) into account where two or more candidates are equally qualified.

But Goldring reiterated the judiciary's view that appointments must be made solely on merit. He explained there was no 'quick fix' and that any changes to the makeup of the judiciary will come from a more diverse legal profession as a whole.

He said: 'Judges have to be lawyers. Those appointed to the High Court Bench will normally be lawyers of high distinction at the top of their profession.

'If that group of lawyers is not diverse, that obviously has implications for the diversity of the judiciary.

'In short, a key part of the responsibility for widening the pool of applicants from which a diverse judiciary can be appointed inevitably rests with the profession.'

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