Public and civil law set One Crown Office Row (1COR) has seen six of its junior barristers take silk in this year’s round of Queen’s Counsel appointments, constituting over 10% of its juniors.
On Monday (11 January) 107 new QC’s were appointed, a rise on last year’s round of 93, and which included 1COR juniors Marina Wheeler, the wife of Boris Johnson, Henry Witcomb, Owain Thomas, Jeremy Hyam, Clodagh Bradley and Peter Skelton.
The sextet’s practices span across multiple areas of law including clinical negligence, inquests and public inquiries, civil liberties, environment, indirect tax and professional discipline, while Wheeler, Hyam and Skelton are all members of the Attorney General’s A Panel. The appointments bring the set’s QC headcount to 27.
Other sets with multiple appointments of juniors included 39 Essex Chambers, No5 Chambers, Serjeants Inn, Blackstone Chambers and Wilberforce Chambers with three appointments each. Notably Wilberforce Chambers’ barrister Tim Penny, a former member of the now dissolved set, 11 Stone Buildings, also made the cut.
However the issue of gender diversity remained a concern for the Queen’s Counsel Selection Panel which said the number of females applicants silk continues to be ‘stubbornly low’. This year’s appointments saw 25 successful women applicants of the 48 who applied – the same amount as last year when 25 out of 43 female applicants were successful.
Sam Mercer, head of equality and diversity at the Bar Council said: ‘This year’s QC appointments raises two big questions: Why are so few women applying to join the top ranks of the profession, and why are ethnic minority barristers not succeeding at the same rate as their white counterparts?
‘We must find out why it is that ethnic minority barristers are less likely to succeed, and we need to work harder to get more women to apply. For ethnic minority barristers it is vital that we keep every stage of the QC appointments process under close scrutiny to ensure that all potential for bias is eradicated and that we are doing everything we can to encourage under-represented groups to apply.’
Mercer added: ‘A very real concern is how these trends will impact the future of judicial appointments. As most of the higher-ranking judges are also Queen’s Counsel, these figures tell us that tomorrow’s senior judiciary may not reflect the communities it seeks to serve.’