Government unveils plans to promote diversity among judges

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has announced new plans to encourage more women and people from minority backgrounds to become judges.

Mr. Clarke said that new laws would be put in place to remove obstacles which can limit diversity in the judiciary.

They include changing the rules to extend part-time working patterns for senior judges, intended to help balance work and family lives.

New plans will also enable ‘positive action’ for appointments – meaning that if two candidates are completely equal in their abilities, a selection can be made on the basis of improving diversity.

The moves will not change the over-riding principle of appointments based on merit but are intended to enable clear career progression, encourage applications from a wider talent pool and continue to create a judiciary which reflects society, the government said.

The changes are the latest part of on-going work to bring more diversity among judges, which is being carried out in partnership with the judiciary, the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) and the legal professions.

Mr. Clarke said: “We are lucky in this country that we have the finest judiciary in the world. We intend to build on that – we will continue to recruit the very best judges but at the same time we will do what we can to encourage top applicants from a diverse range of backgrounds, so that the judiciary better reflects society.”

The proposed changes have been included in the Crime and Courts Bill, which was introduced into Parliament on 10th May 2012. The measures will not take effect until the Parliament approves the Bill.