In the 1980s it was not unusual to go for a business lunch, down a few beers and be back at the office for a full afternoon’s work. Whether it is age or cultural changes but that would never happen now. If I go out for lunch it is a glass of sparking water and if I’m in the office it is a nice cup of tea! If I went near a glass of wine I would be found snoring at my desk by 2.30.
According to members of a Parliamentary Committee our judges have a far stronger constitution. New Minister of Justice, Chris Grayling, recently appeared before them for the first time. Concerns were expressed that Old Bailey Judges would happily down a few glasses of claret over lunch and then return to the bench –
You would think the committee had more pressing issues, such as the attacks on Access to Justice that I mentioned yesterday. So who cares if the judges have a tipple over lunch so long as they do their jobs? But there is one serious issue behind this. That is the ongoing difficulty of ensuring that our judiciary is representative of society as a whole. The claret over lunch might give a misleading image.
The most recent addition to the Supreme Court, Lord Sumption reckons that it will take 50 years before we see a fully diverse bench –
We must all hope that he is wrong. We are approaching the position where women make up about 50% of the legal profession. There are probably more women qualifying than men. This has been the developing picture throughout my thirty years as a solicitor.
I cannot believe that there are not more women with the skills to reach the higher courts. I recently had the privilege of meeting Baroness Hale of the Supreme Court. She clearly has a great intellect but was also in touch with the real world and had a sense of humour. Surely she is not the only woman with those skills. In fact she isn’t. I know many judges who are perfectly in touch with the real world.
But it is the perception that is the problem.
There are many women lawyers out there who would be well suited to bench. The same goes for ethnic minority groups. We must increase that representation sooner rather than later. Should that mean positive discrimination? Possibly. But there certainly needs to be a positive effort to recruit judges from all social groups. Otherwise I will be 107 before we have a broad judiciary and I’d rather not wait that long.