New rules will see up to 4,500 more lawyers from diverse backgrounds eligible to become judges under plans announced by the government on 11th May.
Experienced Chartered Institute of Legal Executive lawyers, after gaining seven years’ experience, will be able to apply to become Recorders and Judges of the Upper Tribunal, hearing complex civil, family, crime and tribunal cases.
Those appointed as Recorders would be able to preside over cases in the Crown Court, sentencing some of the most serious offenders, while those appointed as Judges of the Upper Tribunal would deal with a range of appeals on issues such as immigration and tax.
Chartered Institute of Legal Executive lawyers are not required to hold a university degree and gain their legal qualifications while working. They are more diverse in terms of gender and social background than other legal professionals and many join the profession mid-career or following a break.
Previously, they could only apply for judicial roles overseeing less complex cases in the civil, family and magistrates’ courts and the first-tier tribunal.
The move will increase the number of judicial roles that legal professionals from under-represented groups can apply for – better reflecting modern, multi-cultural, twenty-first century Britain.
Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex 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.”
Justice Minister Mike Freer said:
“We are striving to build a legal system that truly reflects the range of voices in our society.
This change shows how important the broader legal profession is to our goal of breaking down barriers and boosting eligibility as we recruit more, diverse judges.”
Chartered Institute of Legal Executive lawyers represent a wider range of society than the judiciary and broader legal profession. Women make up 77% of Chartered Institute of Legal Executive lawyers while 41% of judges are female. In addition, just 6% attended a fee-paying school, compared to a third of barristers and 45% of Recorders.
CILEX Chair Professor Chris Bones said:
“Women and ethnic minorities are currently 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. As one of the most diverse parts of the legal profession, CILEX is a key solution to accessing talent of greater diversity.
Judicial appointments should be based on merit and all lawyers regardless of their professional title should be able to apply for all judicial roles they are trained and competent to perform.”
Today’s change is a part of the government’s wider efforts to boost the number of judges so more cases can be heard across the country.