Race Matters

Fall in proportion of ethnic minority judges 'unacceptable'

Government data released today show the percentage of Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) court judges fell to a paltry five percent, down from 5.9 percent in 2015.

The decrease takes racial diversity in the judiciary to below the 2011 level. The Runnymede Trust, said the Ministry of Justice figures were deeply disappointing and unacceptable in modern Britain.

The proportion of BME students studying for a law BA running at 36.3 percent, the thousands of BME lawyers qualifying each year prove there is no excuse for lack of colour in the judiciary.

Dr Omar Khan, Director of the race equality think tank the Runnymede Trust, said: “The fall in the proportion of BME judges is unacceptable. The extent to which the judiciary reflects society is one of the essential benchmarks to measure race equality in Britain. Politicians over two decades have spoken of the need to increase the numbers of BME High Court judges, yet each year the Ministry of Justice figures show how little progress is being made.

“Today’s figures once again show that Britain is failing to make the bench more racially equal. There is no excuse for this. Law is the most popular course for BME students who make up over a third of all law students, and the numbers studying law have been high for many years.

“The role of judges in interpreting the law, and especially the constitutional role of high court judges, means their representation reflects the health of our democracy. It is time for politics to walk the walk on BME judges and not just talk the talk.”

Both David Cameron and Theresa May have talked about over representation of black young people in the criminal justice system. Tackling under-representation of BME judges passing sentences is part of the solution.

Having a judiciary that reflects the population is also vital to the health of our democracy so that BME citizens feel included and realise the full potential of their individual talents.

The Runnymede Trust are calling for the Judicial Appointments Commission to redouble their efforts on racial diversity, including setting clear targets for 2020, and for Liz Truss, the Justice Secretary, to take personal responsibility for driving forward racial diversity in the judiciary.

Last December High Court judge Justice Rabinder Singh QC addressed a Runnymede Trust conference in which he said that the ethnicity of the judiciary mattered “particularly in the perception society has of its judges.” 
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