Setting targets for increasing the number of female judges would be the ‘wrong approach’ to boosting diversity, the minister responsible for legislation and law reform told the House of Lords last week. Facing questions over gender and race diversity in the ­judiciary, Lord McNally said that selection should be based on merit. However, he said that ‘appalling’ figures suggesting that only 20% of judges are female and just 8% are from ethnic minorities, were produced by ‘old selection ­prejudices’ that must be ­broken. McNally called on the Bar Council and the Law Society to ‘show leadership’ in encouraging more women into the legal profession.

Also on the subject of diversity and the legal profession, corporate law firms have are widening their recruitment processes, and targeting a more varied group of universities in order to increase their graduate pool. The apparent reaction from some lawyers has shown the more unattractive side of the legal profession, one commentator on the article, which appeared in Legal Week, wrote ‘I did not study at Oxford and the LSE to then end up working with people who graduated from Leicester or Queen Mary… I hope it’s just a sham to make it look like they increase their diversity.’

Judith Resnik and Dennis Curtis have published a book examining the various symbols of justice, the most common being that of a blindfolded woman holding scales. They trace the changing symbolism of justice and how it reflects the place of justice in democracy, a position which they argue is currently under threat as courts are closed due to lack of funding and adjudication moves from the public to private arena by means of closed mediations and private adjudication.

The judgment in WL Congo was handed down on Wednesday. The case concerned the lawfulness of the government’s detention of foreign national prisoners pending their deportation under the Immigration Act 1971. The Court held that it was unlawful for the Secretary of State to maintain an unpublished policy that was inconsistent with her published policy, and which applied a near blanket ban on the release of FNPs. Lord Dyson also made some interesting comments regarding eth relationship between the courts and government in his judgment. He stated that “For political reasons, it was convenient to take a risk as to the lawfulness of the policy that was being applied and blame the courts if the policy was declared to be unlawful.” The Guardian Editorial yesterday noted that Dyson’s comments served as a timely warning to ministers who have recently ‘developed an unattractive and growing taste for judge-bashing…ministers should never contrive situations in which they shirk their own legal duty so they can attack the judges for setting out law that is politically unpalatable to them.’

Legal advice is ‘too expensive’ and has ‘moved out of reach of the middle classes,’ the chair of the Bar Standards Board said this week. Speaking at Inner Temple, Lady Deech said: ‘The advice of a top barrister is affordable only by government, by corporate bodies and by wealthy individuals’. She warned that this was detrimental to the rule of law. Deech said the problem may be ameliorated by legal aid, insurance, pro bono, conditional fees and better use of technology, but there is still a void.

Former Labour MP David Chaytor has lost an appeal to reduce his prison sentence for fiddling parliamentary expenses as senior judges ruled he had inflicted “serious damage” to our “priceless democratic system” and could have received an even longer jail term.

Finally, a special mention for Cornwall this week, where two eye-catching judgments were handed down this week. A man with a fetish for cow manure has been jailed for two years. Truro Crown Court heard that David Truscott, 41, had repeatedy broken into a farm near Redruth in Cornwall over a period of six years. Truscott was jailed for breaching the terms of a restraining order and harassment. Meanwhile, in Bodmin a man has been jailed for shooting his sister’s donkey dead after an argument. Magistrates heard at an earlier hearing that Darrell Duffill shot the donkey with an air rifle in February. Duffill had admitted criminal damage and was jailed for 56 days and ordered to pay his sister £200 compensation.