The cloak of exclusivity surrounding the judiciary is being challenged by the Government in a controversial move to let legal executives be selected as judges for the first time.
The new plan, aimed at modernising the appointment of judges in England and Wales, will see legal executive join solicitors and barristers in the talent pool from which judges are selected.
The overhaul aims to increase diversity amongst judges – 75 per cent of legal executives are women and more than 13 per cent represent the BME community.
Previously the Government has received criticism for failing to open up the judiciary to more women and ethnic minority groups. As of April 2008, only 19 per cent of all judges in England and Wales were women, and only 4 per cent were from an ethnic minority background, according to official statistics.
It is hoped, however, that this latest change will help the judiciary to more accurately reflect todays society and in turn strengthen public confidence in the legal system.
Mark Bishop, president of the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX), said: Judges should be appointed solely on merit and the judiciary can only benefit by having suitably qualified people from a diverse background. Restricting appointment only to certain lawyers meant that judges still tended to be white males with a public school education.