UK Politics

Ministers to encourage more women to become judges

Judges at the State Opening of Parliament
Image caption Ministers say the plans have had a "positive response"

Plans to encourage more women and people from minority backgrounds to become judges, such as greater emphasis on part-time working, have been announced by ministers.

At the moment, less than 15% of senior judges are female while just 3% are either Black or Asian.

In future, if two candidates of equal merit come forward, a choice could made on the basis of improving diversity.

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke said judges must "better reflect society".

New diversity measures for the judiciary are to be included in legislation announced in the Queen's Speech on Wednesday.

The Crime and Courts Bill, which will be debated by MPs and peers over the coming months, also aims to modernise the process of judicial appointments and make it more efficient.

The BBC's legal correspondent Clive Coleman said the proposals would not change the over-riding principle that top judges should be appointed on the basis of merit.

However, he said the government wanted to remove obstacles to a "wider pool" of applicants, including those from under-represented groups.

Ways of doing this could include extending flexible working to top judges and making appointments on the basis of "positive action" - where a candidate from an under-represented group could be chosen if deemed to be of equal ability to other applicants.

Ministers said the plans had received a "positive response" in a consultation last autumn and were an extension of work already under way to open up the legal profession to people from more diverse backgrounds.

"We will continue to recruit the very best judges but at the same time we will do what we can encourage top applicants from a diverse range of backgrounds so that the judiciary better reflects society," Mr Clarke said.

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