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Lord Chief Justice expresses concern about increase in litigants in person

Lord Judge also addresses diversity within the judiciary

The Lord Chief Justice, the Lord Judge, has expressed concern about the increase in litigants in person and the effect upon the efficiency of the courts.

At his annual press conference, he said:

"Where you have two self-represented litigants, life becomes very difficult indeed, and up and down the country, particularly in civil cases, district judges up and down the country have long lists in which both sides are now self-represented. The cases take much longer and they are much more difficult for the judge. The judge, contrary to some popular idea, does not know all the law. He does not go into court with 25 cases in his list and know the law applicable to every case. He does not. He needs help. He needs to be shown where to find the law. And so district judges in particular in the civil courts have lists of cases in which both sides are self-represented. That undoubtedly slows the process down, and it makes it more difficult for the judge."

Lord Judge also addressed the issue of diversity within the judiciary. He said:

"You can only appoint people by selecting from those who apply. 11 per cent of the Queen's Counsel in this country are women. That means 89 per cent are men. Solicitors who are partners in solicitors' firms, who are women, amount to 25 per cent -- that is 75 per cent men. It would be surprising if you had a Bench which was not inevitably affected by those sorts of statistics when you are choosing from lawyers to become judges. 

"I am going to make a slightly controversial point. What is our society like in relation to the opportunities given to women and the appointments given to women? If I ask a rhetorical question: how many editors of national newspapers are female? How many editors of provincial newspapers are female? How many directors of large companies are female? In that sense the judicial system is –  I am not happy about it, but it is, in fact, reflective of our society.

"There is, to deal with .... this absolute principle, as far as I am concerned, that the only basis for appointment to the Bench must be on merit. I simply do not see how anybody can countenance the possibility of having quotas: 'We will have more women because they are women. We will have more people from minority ethnic backgrounds because we must have them.' Litigants expect their cases to be decided by the best quality people. I think it would be insulting to women – or to any minority – to say: 'We are going to appoint you as part of a quota.' I think most of them would feel insulted. I certainly would. I think that is rather a long answer to a very important question. But I want to end by saying: believe me, I am extremely concerned and unhappy about the proportion of women and people from different minorities who are not represented on the Bench, and, as I repeat, I spend a lot of my time as Lord Chief Justice trying to address that problem."