The President of the Supreme Court announced his retirement and signalled measures to increase diversity on the bench.
Delivering the Bar Council’s law reform lecture, Lord Neuberger said the higher echelons of the judiciary suffer from a ‘marked lack of diversity’ and admitted the Supreme Court ‘does not score at all well’.
‘We have one white woman and ten white men, and, although two of the 11 were not privately educated, none of us come from disadvantaged backgrounds,’ he said.
He confirmed that he and Lord Clarke had communicated their intention to retire at the end of next summer and during 2018, and noted that three other justices – Lords Hughes, Mance and Sumption – reach retirement age over the next two-and-a-half years.
There is already one vacancy, following Lord Toulson’s retirement in July, so 50% of the court will need to be replaced over the space of 30 months.
Lord Neuberger said: ‘Lady Hale, the Deputy President, and I are both keenly aware that the profession and wider society are looking to the Supreme Court to lead the way on diversity rather than simply waiting for a “trickle up” effect from natural developments and efforts made lower down the system.’
To increase diversity the court will run a series of half-day ‘insight sessions’ including a tour of the court and an opportunity to sit in court and meet one of the justices.
Two competitions will seek to recruit three justices in each, said Lord Neuberger, in order to improve the prospect of ‘more diverse and more coherent recruitment’, with flexible working options in the job information pack and applying the equal provisions.
Bar Chairman for 2016, Chantal-Aimée Doerries QC, said: ‘The Bar Council and the Bar will continue to support and work with the judiciary to raise awareness of judicial career opportunities to a wide talent pool, building on the substantial commitment we have made to ensure that the Bar and the judiciary reflect more broadly the society they serve.’
Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss said: ‘The Supreme Court makes an immense contribution to our constitution, hearing cases of the utmost importance that impact upon the entire population. It is right that such a crucial institution taps into all the talents of our country.’