Supreme Court president Lord Reed calls for more judges from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds as he says lack of diversity will become ‘shameful’ if it continues
- Lord Reed took over as president of the Supreme Court from Lady Hale
- He said the lack of diversity ‘cannot be allowed to become shameful if it persists’
- Comes after a barrister was mistaken for a defendant three times in one day
The president of the UK’s highest court has spoken out against the ‘ignorance and unconscious bias’ which needs to be addressed by the courts service.
In a searingly honest interview, President of the Supreme Court Lord Reed slammed the lack of diversity among justices ‘which cannot be allowed to become shameful if it persists’.
Lord Reed, who replaced Lady Hale when she retired in January, told the BBC he hopes to see more judges from black, Asian and ethnic minority backgrounds before he retires.
This comes after black barrister Alexandra Wilson said she was mistaken for the defendant three times in a single day in court.
Lord Reed (front, right), who replaced Lady Hale (left) when she retired in January, slammed the lack of diversity among Supreme Court justices. Pictured, Justices of the Supreme Court marking the beginning of the new legal year in 2019
Alexandra Wilson (pictured), 25, from Essex, was mistaken for a defendant three times in the same morning at a magistrates’ court
Lord Reed told the BBC the treatment of Alexandra Wilson was ‘appalling.’
Last month Ms Wilson, 25, from Essex, was mistaken for a defendant three times in the same morning at a magistrates’ court.
She later declared on Twitter ‘there must be something about my face that says ”not a barrister”.’
Lord Reed said: ‘Alexandra Wilson is a very gifted young lawyer, an Oxford graduate who has won umpteen scholarships, and for her to be treated like that was extremely disappointing to say the least.’
Lord Reed added there was ‘ignorance and unconscious bias which has to be addressed by the courts service.’
According to Judicial Diversity Statistics, as of April 2019, some 7% of court judges were BAME.
Asian or Asian British accounted for 4% of all court judges and Mixed Ethnicity for 2%.
The remaining groups, Black or Black British and Other Ethnic Group, accounted for around 1% each.
Ethnicity is self-declared on a non-mandatory basis. As of April 2019, some 86% of court judges, 93% of tribunal judges and 90% of non-legal members of tribunals declared their ethnicity.
According to Judicial Diversity Statistics , as of April 2019, some 7% of court judges were BAME
Speaking to followers, Ms Wilson, whose chambers are near the Old Bailey, said when she arrived at court the security officer first asked for her name so he could find it on the list of defendants
Kevin Sadler, the acting chief executive of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service, apologised to Ms Wilson and said it was ‘totally unacceptable behaviour’ and he would be investigating the role of his staff in the incident.
Lord Reed was appointed as a justice of the Supreme Court in February 2012 and has served as its deputy president since June 2018.
He previously served as a judge in Scotland and sometimes sits as a judge at the European Court of Human Rights and the Hong Kong Court of Final Appeal.
He was educated at the universities of Edinburgh and Oxford before qualifying as an advocate in Scotland and a barrister in England and Wales.
Lord Reed added he wants the Supreme Court to continue to be seen as ‘one of the very top courts in the world whose judgements are cited and followed by other courts around the world’.