The legal system in the United Kingdom is world-renowned. At its heart is a judiciary embodying the principles of independence, fairness and integrity, and an unwavering commitment to the rule of law. The responsibility of the judiciary is to ensure the fair administration of justice; the birthright of every citizen.
Beyond its impact on the lives of every citizen, the administration of justice makes a significant contribution to the economy and standing of the UK as a whole. English law is the most commonly used law in international business and dispute resolution, and this pre-eminence is built on the impartiality, integrity and depth of experience of the judiciary.
To maintain the high quality of our legal system, the brightest and most able candidates must be attracted to put themselves forward for judicial appointment, and after they have been appointed, to continue in office. Unfortunately we have found that a number of factors have damaged judicial morale and the attractiveness of judicial office. We are seriously concerned about difficulties of recruitment, particularly to the High Court.
In our 2012 report on Judicial Appointments we explored the appointment of judges in England and Wales and Justices of the Supreme Court, raised concerns about the lack of diversity at the bench, and made a number of recommendations to improve the judicial appointments process. While there has been some improvement in the diversity of the judiciary since that report, it has been limited. We recognise that it may take time for recent legal changes and initiatives to deliver a more diverse judiciary that is reflective of the community it serves.
In this follow-up report we draw attention to three broad themes: the reduced attractiveness of judicial office, its impact on recruitment, and continuing concerns about the lack of diversity in the judiciary. We examine a number of factors including judicial salaries, pensions, working conditions, court infrastructure and administration, as well as the constitutional responsibility of the Lord Chancellor to uphold the independence of the judiciary. We consider opportunities to improve diversity, and to increase the number of potential recruits to the judiciary, by addressing issues that restrict applications from solicitors, legal executives and lawyers currently employed by the government and the Crown Prosecution Service.
The high quality of our judicial system is a valued national asset, and we must do everything possible to maintain it.