Bar welcomes report on Judicial Diversity

THE Bar Council has welcomed the publication of the final report from the Lord Chancellor’s Advisory Panel on Judicial Diversity. Chaired by Baroness Neuberger DBE, the Panel has published a report which sets out proposals for a co-ordinated programme designed to deliver ‘sustained progress towards a more diverse judiciary’. The report emphasises the need for a ‘fundamental shift in approach’ which focuses on a judicial career that addresses diversity at every stage. Baroness Neuberger’s report is an important document which complements the work which the Bar itself is undertaking to improve diversity within the profession.


Among the findings and recommendations of the report are:

  • The diversity of those entering the profession is greater than that of those who have the necessary experience to apply for judicial office; a diverse judiciary is therefore as much about retaining talent as recruiting it
  • Selection processes should be transparent, promote diversity and recognise potential, both at entry points to the judiciary and for progression within it; appraisal which is owned and run by the judiciary should be consistently implemented 
  • The Judicial Appointments Commission should revise its criteria for assessing merit, to support and underline with greater clarity its commitment to diversity; the Judicial Studies Board should evolve into a Judicial College offering courses in ‘Developing Judicial Skills’
  • A proactive campaign of mythbusting should be undertaken as many of the perceived barriers to diversity are not reflected in practice
  • Improvements should be made to the way data is captured and shared, so that there can be systematic monitoring and evaluation of what works and what progress is being made

Commenting on the publication of the report, Chairman of the Bar Nick Green QC said:

‘The work of Baroness Neuberger and the Panel is to be strongly commended. We welcome its findings. The Bar Council has worked hard over many years to encourage diversity and access to the profession and commissioned a major investigation into access to the profession in 2006 in order to break down barriers to entry. The report which followed, published in 2007, contained recommendations on widening access to and retaining diversity within the profession which we continue to implement through a dedicated Implementation Group. The Bar’s approach to improving access to the profession was commended by the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions, chaired by the Rt Hon Alan Milburn MP, whose report was published last summer. A vibrant and diverse Bar is very important to a vibrant and diverse judiciary.

The Bar has a very good track record in encouraging diversity. Women and men enter the profession in equal numbers and nearly 20% of pupil barristers come from visible ethnic minority backgrounds. We have implemented several schemes which educate young people who aspire to become barristers. These include work with the Citizenship Foundation, the Social Mobility Foundation and Aimhigher. We run annual placement schemes which allow schoolchildren to shadow barristers, and we organise informal sessions within schools across England and Wales, where barristers can speak with schoolchildren about their work and what it means to be a barrister. These and other schemes are part of our ongoing effort to encourage all those who are talented to come to the Bar, regardless of ethnic or social background.

The retention of diversity is a priority. To that end the Equality and Diversity Code and Maternity Leave Guidelines promote flexible working arrangements and career breaks from practice. We run an annual seminar on “Managing Career Breaks” and have appointed Diversity Mentors on every circuit to assist career progression. In addition, we play an active part in the Gateways to the Professions Collaborative Forum, which is implementing the recommendations of the Milburn Commission. The Bar and the judiciary are public servants who serve their communities, and we will continue to support the work of the Advisory Panel as it seeks to implement its recommendations.’

 

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