The numbers are in for the Courts and Tribunals Judiciary 2015 diversity statistics. Things are looking very slightly better for women, while for black or minority ethnic (BME) judges, there was little change.
The diversity survey looks at four key areas: gender, ethnicity, professional background and payment type.
The overall number of female judges in the courts amounts to 25.2%, a very slight increase on the previous year where women accounted for 24.5% of the judiciary.
Broken down into the different levels of court, there are several interesting findings. In the Court of Appeal, of the 38 judges, eight were women, which is an increase of one from last year’s seven. There are still no female Heads of Division.
Age also plays a role for women in the judiciary: there are more women in the under 40 age band than there are over 40. In fact, of the under 40 age band, women account for 53% of the judiciary. Compare this to the percentage of female judges in the over 40 band (13%) and there’s reason to be optimistic. The future thus looks bright for women in the judiciary: it hints at a sign of that the number of women in the judiciary will continue to rise as time goes on.
There are currently a higher number of women in fee paid positions, rather than salaried positions, which looks less good, but this could be a consequence of the higher number of younger women in the judiciary.
Things are less impressive when it came to ethnic diversity. The percentage of BME judges across the courts and tribunals has remained static since last year, at 7%. However, there may be cause to be hopeful here too. When you look at the age bands, there is a slight improvement in the under 50 age band for BME judges: this percentage stands at 12%.
The Lord Chief Justice Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd said:
Diversity is important to all of us and to the judiciary in particular. It is not just a guarantor of public confidence in justice, it is also a feature of justice itself because it represents both fairness and equality of opportunity.
The Judicial Appointments Commission selects candidates for judicial roles on merit irrespective of background, but there is a real need to ensure that there is a level playing field and everyone has a genuine opportunity when applying for judicial appointment.
Progress, it seems, is slow and incremental, but there is every reason to suggest that things are moving in the right direction.
The report can be read in full here.