A change in the law aimed at boosting diversity in the judiciary will see more women and state-educated lawyers become judges.
Justice Secretary Alex Chalk is to reform eligibility rules so that around 4,500 lawyers who went through apprentice-style, on-the-job training and not through university, will be able to become crown Court Judges. At present these solicitors are currently barred from becoming recorders or judges who can hear family, criminal, and civil cases in the crown courts. The change in the law will mean they will be able to join the judiciary to hear the more complex cases, which ministers hope will boost the number of women and state-educated judges.
The change will apply to the 4,500 members of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executive (Cilex) lawyers, who represent a wider range of society than the judiciary and broader legal profession. 77 per cent of Cilex lawyers are women. In addition, just 6 per cent of Cilex lawyers attended a fee-paying school, compared with a third of barristers and 45 per cent of recorders.
It is the first significant announcement by Mr Chalk, who is himself a KC and experienced barrister, and will be introduced through a statutory instrument laid out by the Ministry of Justice. Mr Chalk said: “Providing more opportunities for experienced lawyers from a range of backgrounds to join the bench strengthens the judiciary and the rule of law. That’s why we’re making these important reforms, to broaden eligibility and ensure the judiciary is able to draw on a wealth of experience.”
Chairman of Cilex, Prof Chris Bones, said: “Women and ethnic minorities are under-represented in our judicial system and we need a judiciary that is representative of the society we live in to promote confidence in the rule of law. All lawyers should be able to apply for all judicial roles if they are trained and competent to perform.”