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Odds against you: New figures show BAME applicants less likely to succeed as judges than white counterparts

The Official Statistics Bulletin published yesterday (2 June) by the Judicial Appointments commission (JAC) has revealed that black and minority ethnic lawyers (BAME) applying to become judges are far less likely to succeed than their white counterparts.

While 20% of white applicants for Recorder appointments were shortlisted, the corresponding figure for BAME candidates was 10%. Of the white applicants who were shortlisted, 46% were recommended for appointment compared with only 29% of the shortlisted BAME applicants.

Candidates who declared themselves to be BAME represented 16% of applications from 387 candidates and 9% of all recommendations.

In addition, the number of BAME candidates has dropped when comparing the Recorder exercise to that which was run in 2011. Five percent of recommended candidates were from a BAME background in 2015 compared to 8% in 2011.

Bar Council equality and diversity head Sam Mercer called on the legal sector to work together to improve diversity at the top of the profession.

‘At every stage of the process, BAME applicants did less well than their white colleagues. If you are a white lawyer applying to become a Recorder you have a one in 10 chance of success. If you belong to a minority ethnic group, that drops to one in 33.

‘White applicants are three times more likely to succeed. This inequality is unacceptable. We urgently need to work in partnership with organisations across the legal sector, and with Government, to find out why this distortion is occurring and take immediate measures for.’

Being a Recorder is seen as crucial as those appointed make up the pool from which the ranks of the senior judiciary are drawn.

According to Mercer, since 2012 there have been no BAME applications or appointments to the Court of Appeal and there are no BAME judges in the Supreme Court.