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One month on from the advent of Black History Month it is a great disappointment to note that the proportion of black judges still only stands at 1%. This is a figure that has not improved for nearly 10 years. However, the proportion of judges from Asian and other minority ethnic backgrounds has been increasing since 2014. They now count for 5% of the total number of judges.  In London 13.3% of the population is black, whereas in the West Midlands the percentage is 3.3%. 3% of the total UK population is black. On that basis not many black court users are likely to see a judge which reflects their own ethnicity. Indeed, as one paper sensationalises it, ‘black lawyers are the least likely to be made judges’. The praise for progress made in the quest to improve diversity on the bench therefore by definition has to be a muted one. Or as the judiciary’s diversity chief acknowledges ‘there is a great deal more to do’.

The proportion of women in the judiciary has increased in recent years. As at 1 April 2020, 32% of court judges and 47% of tribunal judges were women. However, the proportion of women in senior court appointments remains much lower at 26% for High Court and above.

Also the number of solicitor-judges has actually decreased since last year.

There have been a number of initiatives, tailor-made to help increase personal and professional diversity, including pre-application judicial education programmes and bespoke advice and support for under-represented groups. This is indeed ‘heartening’ but also it is important not to be complacent. Specifically, it is important to convert strategies into results which stand up to scrutiny, without ‘creative accounting’ or statistical manipulation.

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