Lord Reed calls for increased diversity in Supreme Court

by Yusuf Odabashy

The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in the UK for both Civil and Criminal cases . Although it cannot strike down and invalidate legislation like its US counterpart, it can still conduct Judicial Review on the decisions of Ministers and Public bodies to determine whether they are lawful. The Supreme Court recently came under scrutiny from within. Lord Reed, who succeeded Lady Hale on 13th January 2020 as President of the Supreme Court, recently stated in an interview with the BBC that he wished to see more diversity among the Justices of the Supreme Court. He further added that he wished to see this happen before he retires, in six year’s time.

His comments come at a time when a Black Barrister, Alexandra Wilson, was mistaken for the defendant in court by a security officer, a solicitor and a clerk,  three times during the same day. Though, she later received an apology from Kevin Sadler, Chief Executive of HM Courts and Tribunals Service, and an investigation was launched, Lord Reed weighed in and said it was both “appalling” and “disappointing”.

To put into perspective the lack of diversity in the British Judicial system, only 8% of Judges and 12% of Tribunal Judges belong to the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic group(BAME). Between 2014 to 2019, the number of Judges from the BAME background increased by 2%, and in comparison, only 4%  appointed as Senior Judges in High Court are from ethnic minority groups. As for the representation of women in the Judicial System, currently 32% are Judges and 46% are Tribunal Judges, an increase of 3% between 2014 to 2019.

The lack of diversity in the Judiciary, however, has not gone unnoticed by the Government. On 17th September 2020, they published a press release outlining a ‘New Action plan to boost Judicial Diversity’. Its aims to encourage more women, individuals belonging to BAME backgrounds and those with disabilities to apply for judicial roles.

This article is intended for guidance only and must not be relied upon for specific advice.

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