Last Thursday, the Judicial Appointments Commission published its sixth bi-annual set of statistics on completed selection exercises and recommendations for appointment. The figures show that while the number of female candidates being recommended for judicial appointment for certain tribunals now exceeds the number of male candidates, the percentage of applicants being recommended for appointment who are Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic has decreased across the board.

The JAC report analysed the 13 selection exercises that were completed between October 2011 and March 2012, which were large enough to be reported individually without risk of identifying candidates. Of these, over a third were for the immigration and asylum and social entitlement jurisdictions, only four exercises involved full-time salaried roles and four exercises were for judicial roles not requiring legal qualifications.

Those selection exercises that saw an increase in the proportion of female candidates who were being recommended for appointment were:

• Deputy Immigration and Asylum Judge selections (increase from 32% to 50%; female applicants made up 20% of the eligible pool).
• Salaried Social Entitlement Judge selections (increase from 45% to 54%; female applicants made up 19% of the eligible pool).
• Fee-paid Social Entitlement Judge selections (increase from 50% to 54%; female applicants made up 37% of the eligible pool).
• Fee-paid Immigration and Asylum Judge selections (increase from 40% to 56%; female applicants made up 39% of the eligible pool).

However, even though the eligible pool of female applicants to be heavyweight crime circuit judges was 20%, only 8% of the candidates who were recommended for appointment were female, representing a decrease from 14%.

These statistics show that although improvements have been made, more could be done by way of diversity in judicial appointments, particularly at the more senior levels and particularly with regard to recommended applicants who are BAME. Such change may come in the form of the Crime and Courts Bill, which seeks to promote diversity among the judiciary and was introduced into Parliament on 10 May 2012. Its proposals include extending part-time working patterns for senior judges and, more controversially, enabling ‘positive action’ for appointments, meaning that if two candidates are completely equal in their abilities, a selection can be made on the basis of improving diversity.

The Committee Stage in relation to the Bill starts today in the House of Lords; the current text of the Bill can be accessed here.

The JAC report can be accessed here.