Supreme Court President, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, has expressed his desire to see greater diversity in the ‘social, educational, and professional backgrounds’ of judges.
Speaking at the World Bar Conference in Edinburgh this month, Neuberger argued that future judges should be drawn from all walks of life and not necessarily from the ranks of practising lawyers.
He told delegates that ‘limiting judicial recruitment at any level to former practitioners is positively to be discouraged,’ ‘Diversity should not be limited to the familiar categories such as ethnic origin and gender.’
The current composition of the Supreme Court is far from the model of diversity that Neuberger hopes to encourage. Of the 12 only one, Lady Brenda Hale, is a woman, all members are white, over 60 and overwhelming Oxbridge-educated.
Legislative efforts have already been made to enhance diversity. The Crime and Courts Act of 2013 (Schedule 13, Part 2, paragraph 10 – the ‘equal merit provision’) clarifies that while the Judicial Appointments Commission is required to make selections solely on merit, this does not prevent the JAC choosing a candidate on the basis of improving diversity where there are two candidates of equal merit.
This example can be used by Unit 2 students assessing the neutrality of the judiciary.