RBG - diversity in justice

By Andrew Stark. Published 2020-09-21
We've come a long way in the UK in terms of diversity in the justice system, but we still have a long way to go. When asked about an all female Supreme Court RBG responded "there's been nine men, and nobody's ever raised a question about that".

Ruth Bader Ginsburg once said: "And when I'm sometimes asked when will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]? And I say when there are nine, people are shocked. But there's been nine men, and nobody's ever raised a question about that."

This got me wondering about diversity in justice system here in the United Kingdom.

Let's time travel back to 2001.

Of the 3535 appointments of judges in England and Wales, 14.1% (497) were women and 1.9% (66) were BAME (Black and Minority Ethnic). If we limit that to some of the highest judicial positions in England and Wales (High Court or higher) then that number drops to 7.4% (11) women and zero BAME appointments.

Fast forward to the latest statistics and we see an improved position, however it's clear there is still much work to be done on gender and ethnic diversity. Of the 3210 appointments in 2019 32% (1013) are women and 7% (205) are BAME. Limiting the selection to the higher judicial positions we see an improvement up to 25% (57) for women and 5.6% (13) for BAME. We also see in the latest numbers that 76% of those in the position are over 50, 42% over 60. As you would expect those under 50 tend to be in the "lower" courts.

Now let's revisit RBG's quote and ask ourselves why would we be shocked if all of the top judicial positions were held by women? We shouldn't be, and I think it's clear that we have come a long way since the numbers of 2001 but it's also clear that we still have a long way to go in terms of diversity that represents our entire society.

We are one step closer to that today though, as there was an appointment of a new female and boldie Circuit Judge - Melissa Emma Benson Barlow, aged 53.