The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) is set to open up more senior judicial positions – recorders and Upper Tribunal judges – to chartered legal executives.
Yesterday, it laid a statutory instrument amending section 50 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007, extending the posts for which CILEX lawyers have been able to apply since the bench was first opened up to them in 2007.
To date, chartered legal executives have been appointed district and deputy district judges, and chairs of tribunals such as the employment tribunal, medical practitioners tribunal and police misconduct tribunal.
There are around 8,000 chartered legal executives, of which some 4,500 have sufficient experience to apply for the new posts.
The MoJ indicated that the move would help improve the diversity of the bench: “They are more diverse in terms of gender and social background than other legal professionals and many join the profession mid-career or following a break.”
Lord Chancellor Alex Chalk said: “Providing more opportunities for experienced lawyers from a range of backgrounds to join the bench strengthens the judiciary and the rule of law.
“That’s why we’re making these important reforms, to broaden eligibility and ensure the judiciary is able to draw on a wealth of experience.”
Justice minister Mike Freer added: “We are striving to build a legal system that truly reflects the range of voices in our society.
“This change shows how important the broader legal profession is to our goal of breaking down barriers and boosting eligibility as we recruit more, diverse judges.”
Women make up 77% of CILEX members, compared to 41% of judges. Just 6% attended a fee-paying school, compared to a third of barristers and 45% of recorders.
CILEX chair Professor Chris Bones said: “We wholeheartedly welcome this move… To promote confidence in the rule of law, we need a judiciary that is representative of the society we live in, and as one of the most diverse parts of the legal profession, CILEX is a key solution to accessing talent of greater diversity.
“Judicial appointments should be based on merit; all lawyers regardless of their professional title should be able to apply for all judicial roles they are trained and competent to perform. The trailblazing judges among the ranks of CILEX Lawyers have shown they are more than up to the job.”
Professor Bones added that this should be only “the first step to opening up all judicial posts to CILEX lawyers”.
Nick Vineall KC, Chair of the Bar Council: “We welcome this announcement which is likely to contribute to a more diverse judiciary. Judges should be, and are, appointed on merit.
“If candidates for judicial appointment can demonstrate the skills and experience required for the role, it should not matter in which branch of the legal profession those skills and experience were acquired.”
CILEX lawyers are currently eligible to apply for roles as district judge, district judge (magistrates’ courts), deputy district judge, deputy district judge (magistrates’ courts), judge of the First-tier Tribunal, employment judge, road user charging adjudicator and parking adjudicators.
They can also apply to become a circuit judge if they have served two years as a district judge.