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Levelling Up the Judicial System – Equality in Opportunity through New Appointments

levelling up the judicial system

UK courts have recently undergone a significant transformation with the introduction of new judicial appointments that allow for a more diverse group of professionals to be eligible for the roles. The changes, which will come into effect with parliamentary approval, mean that Chartered Institute of Legal Executive (CILEX) lawyers with seven years of experience will be eligible to apply for Recorder and Judge of the Upper Tribunal positions. These roles, traditionally reserved for barristers and solicitors, involve hearing complex civil, family, crime, and tribunal cases.

CILEX lawyers are unique in that they are not required to hold a university degree to gain their legal qualifications. Instead, they gain their qualifications while working, which makes them more diverse in terms of gender and social background than other legal professionals. The changes to the judicial appointments system will broaden eligibility and ensure the judiciary is able to draw on a wealth of experience from legal professionals who represent a wider range of society than the judiciary and the broader legal profession.

Making progress

Previously, CILEX lawyers could only apply for judicial roles overseeing less complex cases in the civil, family and magistrates’ courts and the first-tier tribunal. However, the new reforms will significantly increase the number of judicial roles that legal professionals from under-represented groups can apply for, thereby better reflecting modern, multicultural, twenty-first-century Britain.

The changes have been welcomed by both legal professionals and government officials. Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk, said that providing more opportunities for experienced lawyers from a range of backgrounds to join the bench strengthens the judiciary and the rule of law. Justice Minister Mike Freer added that the government is striving to build a legal system that truly reflects the range of voices in society. The change shows how important the broader legal profession is to the government’s goal of breaking down barriers and boosting eligibility as more diverse judges are recruited.

Women and ethnic minorities are currently under-represented in the UK’s judicial system, and a more diverse judiciary is required to promote confidence in the rule of law. Chartered Institute of Legal Executive (CILEX) Chair Professor Chris Bones said that 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, and all lawyers, regardless of their professional title, should be able to apply for all judicial roles they are trained and competent to perform.

In addition to addressing diversity issues, the changes to the judicial appointments system are part of the government’s wider efforts to boost the number of judges so that more cases can be heard across the country. CILEX lawyers were previously 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.

The Statutory Instrument is being laid out to extend the eligibility of CILEX lawyers with seven years’ experience to the judicial offices of Judge of the Upper Tribunal (UTJ), Deputy Judge of the Upper Tribunal (DUTJ), and Recorder. The Statutory Instrument will come into effect subject to the approval of Parliament.

Final Thought

The new judicial appointments for Chartered Institute of Legal Executive (CILEX) lawyers are a significant step forward in creating a more diverse and representative judiciary. The changes will broaden eligibility and ensure that the judiciary is better equipped to handle the wide range of legal cases that come before it. With more judges from diverse backgrounds, there is a greater chance that the legal system will be trusted and respected by all members of society. The focus that this initiative has specifically on women and ethnic minorities will hep ensure that the Government’s Levelling Up agenda is implemented on ground in the true sense and equal opportunity is provided in spaces within the judicial system where it previously did not exist.

Curia’s Levelling Up Commission

Curia is holding the Levelling Up Commission this year, seeking to implement the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper and find pragmatic solutions to regional disparities across the UK.

Through roundtable meetings with MPs and senior leaders of local and regional government from across the UK, quantitative data analysis and regional sprints, the Commission intends to set out a series of recommendations to consider how regional inequalities can be reduced from the perspective of public services in four key areas:

  • Health and Social Care
  • Housing and Homelessness
  • Education, Skills and Training
  • Crime, Justice and Rehabilitation

To hear thought leaders discuss levelling up in health and social care, signup to the Commission first inquiry session here.

If you are interested in working with the Levelling Up Commission, please reach out to our policy lead Shivani Sen at shivani.sen@chamberuk.com

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