Letter: Barriers remain for women judges

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The Independent Online
Sir: The open afternoon on 8 July was not organised solely by the Lord Chancellor, as Elizabeth Burney states in her article about the recent initiative to encourage more women to apply for silk and judicial appointments (18 July), but was a joint event organised by the Association of Women Barristers, the Bar Council and the Lord Chancellor's Department. The large number of women who attended demonstrated that women are very interested in seeking judicial appointment. Unfortunately, to date, there have been too few women appointed.

Our association remains deeply concerned that the Lord Chancellor's current proposals are restricted to the lower rungs of judicial appointments, and that he intends to retain the present system of 'secret soundings' among the 'consultation community' - which consists almost exclusively of senior male barristers and judges.

In 1992, the TMS Management Consultants report, Without Prejudice?, commissioned by the Bar Council and the Lord Chancellor's Department, stated:

It is unlikely that the judicial appointments system offers equal access to women . . . The system depends upon patronage, being noticed and being known.

The report points out that

so long as there is a single gender majority in the consultation group and a minority of applicants from other groups, such a selection system is likely to perpetuate existing representation.

While significant reliance continues to be placed upon the current consultation system, I fear that the number of women serving in any judicial capacity will remain unacceptably low.

Yours faithfully,

SUSAN WARD

Chairwoman

The Association of

Women Barristers

London, WC2

18 July

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