Government rejects Calls to Recruit more BAME Judges

David Lammy and representational image of judge's mallet

In a perhaps confusing move, the Government has decided to reject recommendations by David Lammy on recruiting more BAME judges.

After Labour MP David Lammy recommended the Government to recruit more BAME judges, it has decided to reject his targets. Instead, Justice Secretary David Lidington claimed this would be the “wrong way” to solve diversity.

On 19th December 2017, the Ministry of Justice published its response to Lammy’s report. His inquiry, released in September, explored how ethnic minorities faced prejudice and bias in the justice system.

He listed a series of 35 recommendations to the Government. One of which suggested the increase of judges from BAME backgrounds.

David Lidington explained how each recommendation had been considered, with “most” accepted. However, he suggested the target of more BAME judges was “the wrong way to attack this particular objective”.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, on the Today programme, the Minister explained:

“When you look at the judges, you have got a group of people who have been practising in law perhaps for 20 years… because we need people who are experienced, who are expert, to sit on the bench.

“In getting a more diverse judiciary… you need to look at the critical path of how do people get into the legal profession in the first place.”

However, he reassured critics that the Ministry of Justice would look into alternative methods.

David Lammy welcomed the Government for accepting many of his suggestions. But he did express his dismay at the overlook of BAME judges, saying:

“I am disappointed that the government have not felt able to move forward on targets or goals to achieve a representative judiciary and magistracy.

“My review demonstrated the lack of progress over the last decade in improving diversity amongst the judges that sit in our courts, and I am clear that more of the same will not work.”

Lammy’s review found concerning figures surrounding ethnic minorities and the justice system. It reported that 25% of the prison population was from BAME backgrounds, along with 41% in the youth justice system.

However, only 14% of ethnic minorities make up the general population. Suggesting that they face discrimination, perhaps even including unconscious bias.

While the Ministry of Justice has accepted most of Lammy’s recommendations, many will hope they bring together an action plan. One that works to erase prejudice.

Yet it may seem perplexing that they have decided against recruiting more judges from ethnic minorities. One could argue it would not only improve the diversity of the justice system but of its workforce.

It appears time can only tell on how the Government will take action on Lammy’s recommendations. With many accepted, perhaps we will see a positive change.

Image courtesy of PA/Stefan Rousseau.