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Judicial neutrality: racial disparity

Mike McCartney

28th February 2023

Fascinating statistics to quote on this topic area

O blogged yesterday about judicial independence, and mentioned how it is distinct from neutrality. These two concepts do overlap, but they are different. As an examiner I often find what some teachers call as 'misconception' in that they are seen to the the same. I hope this note clarifies things.

J.A.G. Griffith (ex-Professor of Law at the University of London) in The Politics of the Judiciary (1977) examined judicial attitudes towards such issues as trade unions and police powers, and suggested that judges had, ‘acquired a strikingly homogeneous collection of attitudes, beliefs and principles, which to them represent the public interest.’ They are on the whole, male, white, public school, and Oxbridge educated.

Some view this as an outdated concept, suggesting that the background of a judge doesn’t have a bearing on the outcome of a case, and that faults in the judicial system, lack of evidence, or a simply matter of judges applying the law as it is written more accurately explain why the rule of law does not seem to apply.

But some do feel it is important and contend that justice cannot be applied fairly if judges are not representative of the society they represent. So how representative are they?

Well, this little bit of analysis gives you an idea. They report that:

"Black judges make up just 1.09% of the judiciary in England and Wales, compared to 1.02% in 2014.

At that rate of progress, it would take until 2149 for the proportion of the judiciary who are black to match the current estimate for the general population (3.5%)."

See more here.

Mike McCartney

Mike is an experienced A-Level Politics teacher, author and examiner.

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