International research shines a light on judicial diversity progress across the globe

The JAC has published a report following an international research project.

The project, run by the National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) and commissioned in May 2021, looks into measures used by other common law jurisdictions to improve judicial diversity, in order to better understand if any of these could be successful in England and Wales.

The findings suggest that in other common law jurisdictions*:

  • The evidence base regarding diversity within the legal professions and the judiciary is dominated by evidence of barriers to diversity rather than evidence of diversity initiatives.
  • There appears to be little evidence at present around specific initiatives to improve diversity and much of the existing evidence is of poor quality, especially within the judiciary. There is a need for accessible and early career training on the pathways and skills required to be a judge, as well as implementing flexible working opportunities and policies.
  • Currently, efforts to improve diversity seem to concentrate on encouraging the consideration of diversity, rather than structured programmes of activity. Suggestions of developing more mentoring opportunities, implementing unconscious bias training, equality and diversity training and proactive recruitment from underrepresented groups, alongside training on how to apply for judicial selection and prepare for interviews were noted as areas for future development.
  • Gender is the most widely targeted diversity characteristic, with encouragement for focusing on a broader range of diversity characteristics including LGBTQ+
  • The evidence base regarding the effectiveness of efforts to improve judicial diversity is very weak, emphasising the importance of the collation and monitoring of diversity monitoring data.

This report is a useful addition to our existing evidence base that informs our ongoing work, and indicates again that there is no single solution to improving diversity within the professions and judiciary. Positively, it puts the JAC’s and Judicial Diversity Forum (JDF)’s efforts in an extremely good light. There is no evidence of strategies and policies similar to the Equal Merit Provision, the outreach and support programmes and the Targeted Outreach project being implemented by the JAC nor to the efforts of other JDF partners.

The report has been considered by the Judicial Diversity Forum so we can continue to work together on finding collaborative solutions.

ANNEX B: International judicial diversity

* Research project covered the following jurisdictions: Australia, Canada, Caribbean jurisdictions (specifically Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago), Cyprus, Ghana, Hong Kong, India, Israel, Kenya, Malaysia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Northern Ireland, Pakistan, Republic of Ireland, Scotland, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, Uganda.

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