The JAC has decided to start monitoring the sexual orientation of candidates.
As with all monitoring, completion of the form will be voluntary and will form no part of the selection process. This monitoring is in line with best practice and our duties under the new Equality Act. The JAC is also now monitoring religion and belief. This change will come into effect in the autumn. The JAC already monitors gender, ethnicity, age, professional background and disability.
The announcement was made at the Interlaw Diversity Forum's launch of 'Barriers to Application for Judicial Appointment: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Research' on Thursday 7 July.
The InterLaw Diversity Forum undertook research into LGBT lawyers' perceptions of judicial careers and appointment to them. The research was carried out with the full support of the Judicial Appointments Commission and the assistance of Stonewall. It found that:
• 16% of respondents had already applied for judicial office
• 96% thought the work would be enjoyable
• LGBT lawyers are attracted by the opportunity for public service and to making a contribution through holding a judicial appointment
Importantly, 70% of LGBT lawyers indicated that more openly gay LGBT judges would make them more likely to apply for a judicial role themselves. The key barriers to seeking appointment at the moment are the isolated nature of the judicial role, the perceived 'culture of the judiciary’, travel requirements and the potential loss of personal flexibility.
LGBT lawyers view the creation of the Judicial Appointments Commission as a positive development, perhaps because many of them are concerned that there had been prejudice in the selection process.
Daniel Winterfeldt, Founder and Co-chair of InterLaw and a partner at CMS Cameron McKenna said:
"This research once again highlights the importance of role models in encouraging other LGBT people to play their full professional and social roles. It is vital that the judiciary is seen to reflect the Society it serves because confidence in the judiciary is so central to the functioning of a fair society.
"We are delighted that the JAC has decided to monitor sexual orientation of candidates for judicial appointment and that the Neuberger Report considered the issues faced by LGBT lawyers seeking judicial roles. We are keen now to work with serving judges to make sure that the judiciary is seen as a welcoming place for LGBT lawyers to develop successful careers."
Christopher Stephens, Chairman of the Judicial Appointments Commission, said:
"The JAC is delighted to be working with the InterLaw Diversity Forum to improve the participation of LGBT lawyers in the judiciary by broadening the pool of candidates. There is much work underway in the legal professions, by the JAC and in the judiciary to ensure that under-represented groups are applying for the judiciary. In all circumstances, applicants will be considered on their merit."