A piece in today’s Times. In the legal profession, as in every other profession, increasing the proportion of women in senior positions requires a lowering of standards.
The proportion of women recommended to sit as High Court judges has more than doubled since a commission was set up to boost diversity, figures released yesterday revealed.
On average, women candidates formed 27 per cent of the recommendations for High Court positions since the creation of the Judicial Appointments Commission in 2006. That compares with an average of 13 per cent in the eight years before the commission’s creation.
Figures from the commission showed that this year there were more applications from women than men for all levels of the judiciary. Some 51 per cent of applications came from women, an 8 per cent rise on the previous year. The commission said that 48 per cent of those recommended for places in the judiciary for England and Wales this year were women, a 1 per cent rise on last year.
Commission officials have been less successful in encouraging applications from ethnic minority lawyers. In the years before the commission was set up, on average only 2 per cent of applications for the High Court bench came from lawyers with ethnic minority backgrounds. That figure has risen to 4 per cent since its existence.
Across all levels of the judiciary 22 per cent of applications came from ethnic minority lawyers this year, with 14 per cent being recommended, a slight increase on last year when 19 per cent came from ethnic minority lawyers and 13 per cent were recommended.
In publishing the figures, the commission pointed to a move to reduce the average age of the bench in England in Wales. This year 52 per cent of those recommended for posts at all levels were younger than 45, including 109 applicants who were younger than 35.
The figures were released the day after High Court judges won a 16 per cent pay rise taking their annual salaries to £215,000 as ministers battled to stem a recruitment crisis in the senior judiciary. The Ministry of Justice said that High Court and circuit court judges would receive a “temporary recruitment and retention allowance”.
The pay rise for senior judges is substantial but it is less than the 32 per cent that was recommended last year by the senior salaries review board. Ministers appear to have been forced to act in the face of rising concerns over a shortage of senior judges. More than 10 per cent of High Court judicial positions were vacant.
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