Barristers respond to government announcement on diversity of judges

26 April 2018

In response to the Ministry of Justice's announcement that they will be funding a new programme of Pre-Application Judicial Education to both educate and boost diversity within the judiciary, Robin Allen QC, Chair of the Bar Council's Equality & Diversity and Social Mobility Committee, said:

 "The Bar Council believes profoundly in equality under and before the law.  So it is delighted by the Lord Chancellor's announcement today that the MOJ will commit funding for a programme of pre-appointment education for prospective applicants for judicial office of all kinds.  We see this as a really positive step towards improving judicial diversity which is so urgently needed and so important.

 "Through its membership of the Judicial Diversity Forum the Bar Council has argued for a Pre-Application Judicial Education (PAJE) scheme for over two years.  These proposals were endorsed by the Judicial Diversity Forum in the summer of 2017, and last year were commended by the House of Lords Constitutional Committee and the Lammy Review.

 "We firmly believe our judiciary must reflect the diversity of the community it serves, drawing on the best talent the legal profession can offer, and have consistently made the point that pre-application training was crucial to increasing the number of candidates from non-traditional backgrounds applying for judicial roles. We are delighted that the Government has recognised this and that both the Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice and the Chair of the Judicial Appointments Commission have each endorsed this programme.

 "The PAJE course, to which the Bar Council and other legal bodies have committed a great deal of thought and time, will pave the way for those interested in becoming a judge, enabling them to better understand the skills required, such as the right approach to proper decision-making, handling a jury, dealing with litigants in person fairly, and approaching issues of diversity. PAJE will, we believe, remove the mystery around judicial careers and encourage those who might not otherwise consider taking up a judicial post (but are qualified to do so) to make an application.

 "The online course will be open to all.  It will be complemented by discussion groups offered first to under-represented groups on a positive action basis. We believe that the ability to offer targeted support for under-represented groups will give those who may have previously not considered judicial appointment the confidence to apply.

 "PAJE is of course just one initiative aimed at improving diversity in the judiciary, and is designed to complement other programmes, like the Bar Council's Silk & Judicial mentoring programmes, programmes run by the other professional bodies and Judicial Office programmes, e.g. the Judicial Work Shadowing Scheme, to name a few. We would encourage those interested in a judicial role to access as many of these programmes as possible.

 "The Bar Council looks forward to working with the Ministry of Justice, Judicial Office and other professional bodies to deliver high quality training that helps talented lawyers progress into the judiciary."