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Diversity in the judiciary

Diversity in the judiciary

Categories: Latest News

Friday July 31 2015

The Judicial Diversity Statistics for 2015 published today by the Ministry of Defence reveals a number of key findings about female and BME representation in the judicial system.

The report reveals that the number of female judges in the courts has increased by 0.7% between 1 April 2014 and 1 April 2015 from 24.5% to 25.2%. Female judges now account for just over a quarter of judges in the UK courts.

The report revealed a growing number of younger females were becoming judges with a higher number of judges below the age of 40 being of female background (53.3%). In comparison, 44% of judges between the ages of 40-49 are female, 30% of judges between the age of 50-59 are female and 13% judges aged over 60 are female.

Furthermore, the percentage of female judges in the court has gradually increased over the last 5 years though absolute figures have decreased. Female judges now account for 817 out of 3238 (25.2%) compared to 824 out of 3694 (22.3%) in 2011.

With the Judicial Office collecting ethnicity data on all new appointments from May 2009, figures point to a small increase of 1.7% in the percentage of judges where ethnicity is known from 81.3% in 2012 to 83% in 2015.

Out of the 2686 judges whose ethnicity is known 159 (5.9%) declared their background as Black or Minority Ethnic (BME). The figure below shows the representation of BME judges across different judicial appointments from Heads of Division to Deputy District Judges:

Chart 1

The age distribution of judges from BME backgrounds shows many more than half are aged 49 and under. The report notes that the highest percentage of BME court judges were aged between 40 and 49; 11.3% of the judges in this age bracket identifying themselves as BME. In comparison, only 2.5% of the judges aged 60 and over were from BME backgrounds.


The percentage of court judges that identified themselves as BME has remained relatively constant over the years, with only a modest increase from 5.1% in 2011 to 5.9% in 2015.


At the tribunal level, the number of female judges has increased by 0.8% from 43% in 2014 to 43.8% in 2015.

The percentage of female judges in the tribunals has gradually increased over the last 4 years with 812 out of 2030 (40%) tribunal judges being female in 2012 compared with 878 out of 2004 (43.8%) in 2015.

The report reveals an increase of 0.4% in the percentage of tribunal judges whose ethnicity is known, from 92.8% in 2012 to 93.2% in 2015. Out of the 1868 judges whose ethnicity was known 177 (9.5%) identified as Black or Minority Ethnic (BME).

The highest percentage of BME tribunal judges were under the age of 40 (14.8%). In comparison, 13% were between the age of 40 and 49, 11% were aged between 50 and 59 and 6% were aged 60 and above.


The percentage of tribunal judges that identified themselves as BME has remained relatively constant over the last 4 years, with 9.5% of tribunal judges declaring their ethnicity as BME in both 2012 and 2015.


Other main findings in the Ministry of Justice report are:

  • The overall percentage of female judges has increased in both the courts and tribunals from 1 April 2014 to 1 April 2015 from 24.5% to 25.2% in courts and 43.0% to 43.8% in tribunals.
  • The percentage of female High Court Judges and Circuit Judges has increased between 1 April 2014 and 1 April 2015, from 17.9% to 19.8% and 20.5% to 22.8% respectively.
  • More than half of all judges under 40 are female (55%).
  • The overall percentage of judges that identify as BME has remained at 7%.
  • 12% of all judges under 50 that declared their ethnicity identify as BME.

The issue of BME representation in the criminal justice system has cropped up recently in the remarks of both the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe, and the President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger.

Sir Bernard referred to the accusations of the police force being “institutionally racist” saying the allegations had “some justification” because disproportionate stops against BME people persist without explanation.

Lord Neuberger, in a speech about Fairness in the Courts delivered to the Criminal Justice Alliance in April, addressed the issue of ‘unconscious bias’ in the judiciary and the need to guard against ‘unknown unknowns’ if justice is to be, and is seen to be, blindly applied. He said, “Judges have to show and have to be seen to show, respect for everybody equally, and that requires an understanding of different cultural and social habits. It is necessary to have some understanding as to how people from different cultural, social, religious or other backgrounds think and behave and how they expect others to behave. Well-known examples include how some religions consider it inappropriate to take the oath, how some people consider it rude to look other people in the eye, how some women find it inappropriate to appear in public with their face uncovered, and how some people deem it inappropriate to confront others or to be confronted – for instance with an outright denial.”

He added, “[judges] must not use the bewilderingly fast changes in society as an excuse for not doing our best to ensure that the courts are as fair as they can be and are seen to be as fair as they can be.”

The figures released by the Ministry of Justice show the extent to which “people from different cultural, social, religious or other backgrounds” remain unrepresented in the judiciary at different levels and the degree to which guarding against ‘unconscious bias’ in the judiciary remains a challenge for the system.


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