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Thursday, 20 September 2012

Only Armenia and Azerbaijan have fewer women on the bench!

We have to admit that we all have a particular image of judges. This is based on what we see in the media, soap operas and in some cases our own experience. 

The three words often used are male, pale and stale.

There have been many stories over the years which have seemed to support this image. I have referred in a previous blog to some amusing moments such as the time when a judge asked the barristers to explain what Linford Christie’s Lunchbox was!

The most recent controversy surrounded the judge who commented on the courage of burglars –

These are serious matters. We want our courts to be in the hands of judges who are in touch with our lives. In fairness much has been done to try and address this, to encourage younger applicants and especially more women and lawyers from ethnic minorities.

But according to a new report there is still a long way to go.

According to the report which appears in today’s Guardian only Azerbaijan and Armenia have less women judges.

The report notes that – ‘Women predominate in places such as Slovenia where they constitute 78% of judges, in Greece where they make up 65% and France where they are 64%.’ The percentage in England and Wales is just 23%.

This is more than just embarrassing. Women make up 50% of the population. They make up more than half of new lawyers. A judicial system without representation from women is simply not reflecting our world. And that is before we even start to look at ethnic minority representation.

It is only fair to say that we do have a large number of highly capable and understanding judges. But we need more.  I wonder it isn’t time for a complete overhaul of our appointments system. Our judges come from the ranks of longstanding lawyers. In Franceit is a career path so new lawyers are trained as judges from the start.

We all need to ensure that this is addressed. But I won’t be joining the ranks – I am far too male, pale and stale!

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