244. During our visit to South Africa, the importance
of a truly independent and diverse judiciary to the success of
a Bill of Rights was frequently raised by interlocutors.
245. Baroness Hale has been outspoken about the
need for a more diverse judiciary. In her lecture, Equality
in the Judiciary: A Tale of Two Continents,
she referred to the HRA as one of the factors which has "clearly
increased the social and 'small p' political content of the judging
task." This has made it all the more important that the judiciary
becomes more diverse:
Judicial appointments have traditionally been dominated
by the assumption that those best fitted for appointment - and
thus fitted for the best appointments - are those who have done
best in independent practice as barristers. This has excluded
large numbers of very able lawyers from consideration and limits
selection to a comparatively small and homogenous group.
That homogenous group is very largely male, almost all white
and from a comparatively narrow range of social and educational
246. In evidence, she confirmed that she would
like to see the pool from which judges are recruited widened,
including from amongst Tribunal chairs.
247. The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 introduced
a number of reforms to judicial appointments, including a new
judicial appointments commission, which were intended to address
the admitted problem of lack of diversity in the higher judiciary.
Our predecessor Committee was concerned in its Report on the Constitutional
Reform Bill that the new system for judicial appointments introduced
by that Bill fell short of what is required by international human
rights standards relating to the independence and impartiality
of the judiciary, its diversity, and the right of women to have
the same opportunity as men to participate in public life, including
248. The Justice Secretary told the House of
Commons Justice Committee that "expectations that the new
system of appointing judges would lead to a more diverse judiciary
have so far not been fulfilled."
249. We welcome the Government's
express recognition that a more diverse judiciary with increased
understanding of the communities it serves will contribute to
increased public confidence in the justice system, which will
be especially important in the context of a UK Bill of Rights.
We look forward to the Judicial Appointments Commission giving
practical effect to the widely shared view that the pool of people
from whom judicial appointments are currently made is significantly
widened as a matter of urgency.