01:10, June 08 74 0 theguardian.com

2018-06-08 01:10:11
Most lawyers recommended to be judges went to state schools, data shows

Almost two-thirds of lawyers recommended to become judges in the past year attended state schools, according to the first social mobility statistics released by the judicial appointments commission (JAC).

The figures for England and Wales suggest the judiciary may be undergoing a gradual transformation despite criticism that solicitors and those from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds are not making significant advances.

A 2014 survey by the government’s social mobility and child poverty commission found that more than 70% of senior judges were privately educated.

However, the JAC’s figures show that 62% of those recommended by the commission in 2017-18 for immediate appointment were educated at a state school. By comparison, 34% went to a fee-paying school and the remaining 4% were educated abroad.

In the same group, 44% had one or more parent who attended university and 56% were the first in their family to attend university.

The figures are based on 28 selection exercises conducted by the JAC last year for which there were more than 5,000 applicants. Overall, women represented 43% of applicants but 47% of those recommended for appointment.

BAME candidates, however, constituted 19% of candidates but only 13% of those recommended for appointment. Within the legal competitions for the higher judicial posts, BAME candidates formed 19% of applicants but only 9% were recommended.

Traditionally, most judges have come from the ranks of barristers but there is increasing resentment among solicitors that they find it far harder to make their way on to the bench.

In the latest legal competitions, solicitors represented 36% of applicants and 21% of recommendations while barristers represented 50% of applicants and 59% of recommendations.

Andrea Coomber, director of the legal reform charity Justice, said: “While the statistics paint a more encouraging picture for appointments of women to the senior judiciary, the same can’t be said for BAME candidates and solicitors.

“Barristers – not the most diverse bunch – still dominate senior appointments. The concerns expressed in our report of last April remain alive; including that there needs to be more shared accountability between the JAC and the judiciary to effect change.”

Peter Herbert, the chair of the Society of Black Lawyers, said: “These statistics demonstrate that racial diversity in the judiciary is simply not happening fast enough. When a royal wedding ceremony demonstrates greater racial diversity than our justice system something is badly wrong.

“We urge the minister of justice to adopt clear targets for the recruitment, retention and promotion of BME judges and magistrates. A judicial ‘Rooney rule’ should be adopted so that every BME candidate who fits the criteria must be interviewed.

“These are some of the basic measures necessary that will help to ensure the judiciary and magistracy truly represents the diverse society they serve.”

Christina Blacklaws, the vice-president of the Law Society, which represents solicitors across England and Wales, said: “Without doubt the skills solicitors develop in practice are more and more relevant to the changing court environment.

“Many solicitors demonstrate the expertise needed to be an effective judge: intellect, the ability to be fair and even-handed, authority, and advanced communications skills.

“The solicitor profession has a vital part to play ensuring our world-renowned judiciary is as diverse as the society it serves and I would encourage all solicitors to consider whether a judicial role might be right for them.”

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