Thursday, October 29, 2020
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Our judges must rise above diversity pressure

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NOTHING can be free from orthodoxy in 2020, whether it is religion, politics, education, the music industry, banking, finance or the legal system. In an interview with the BBC the new President of the Supreme Court, Lord Reed, the most powerful judge in the UK, recently declared his wish for someone from the so-called BAME community to sit in the court. He said in response to a pointed question that he hopes a justice from an ethnic-minority background will be appointed before his retirement in six years. It was a carefully phrased response but one that the BBC made the most of.

The BBC, who clearly think it is wrong that ‘only 4 per cent of senior judges appointed to the High Court or above are from ethnic minority backgrounds’, were not going to miss this opportunity to pressure the Supreme Court to embrace the aggressive demands of the diversity agenda.

Britain being a non-discriminatory multi-ethnic society, it is to be expected that people from various backgrounds – whether that be sex, race or class – would rise to the highest positions in the land. However, ethnicity should never be the determining factor in selecting a new justice. 

The reason as to why the judiciary is not ‘diverse’ as the BBC think it should be – that is statistically representative of the country’s demographics – is the simple one that the BBC failed to mention. To become a Justice of the Supreme Court requires a lifetime commitment and a high level of competitively earned qualifications, requiring a kind of aptitude and ability that not many have. It’s not easy, for anyone.

However, for the BBC and social justice warriors the fact that the Supreme Court is all-white is enough to imply racial discrimination. And that because it is all white, there is something wrong with it and cannot be allowed to continue.

The Left in the UK, increasingly like the American Left, recognise the potential ‘usefulness’ of the Supreme Court, not as an institution that provides legal stability, but as a mechanism for social change. It can, as evidenced last September, hold the government ‘to account’, whilst masquerading as a bipartisan entity. It would need not consider the ordinary person with his or her backward views when it has its pernicious clutches around the engines of government and power. The fastest way this is achievable is by a revolutionary change in the justices on the court, with the selection process not being by competence, but by identity and political values.

The Supreme Court involving itself in politics should be and is forbidden. When the retired justice Lord Sumption denounced the lockdowns this year, he was criticised for involving himself in politics. Yet when a sitting judge, indeed the President of the Court, states something the media want to hear, it is considered acceptable and praiseworthy. The hypocrisy is not just from our media, but from Lord Reed too. If he, as a straight, privately educated, white, male, who studied at the universities of Edinburgh and Oxford, is so committed to diversity, why does he not resign and give his place to someone from a BAME background? Could he not have said that the Supreme Court role was to be above politics, but that it was the job of government to make educational opportunities properly available for all children? Of course, that would not solve the Left’s problem. The real ‘problem’ is that there are not so many people who have the requisite skills regardless of opportunity. That at the moment they all happen to be white mean it is either evil or requires drastic changes.

If diversity over competence becomes the appointment aim of the judiciary, our legal system will surely suffer from the consequences. There are 38 members of the Court of Appeal, from which the Supreme Court chooses its next justices. Of those 38, only one of them, Lord Justice Singh, can be described as coming from a BAME background. Singh LJ, moreover, is around 24th in seniority, meaning that he lacks some of the experience of other justices on the same court. That of course does not mean he is not qualified, but selecting him before others would mean bypassing more deserving judges to fit diversity quotas. That would be an injustice, not the fact that the judiciary is not diverse.

The British legal system is incredibly complex and throughout history has tried to distance itself from politics. Justices are not elected, and thus they are not accountable to the public, and that is the danger of a politicised Supreme Court. The court’s job is to decide on the most crucial matters of domestic law that reach it. It is not to be a constitutional umpire as can be the US Supreme Court. But if it succumbs to the Left’s orthodoxies of diversity before anything else, the quality, competence and independence of our justice system risks being irretrievably damaged.

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Jake Welch
Jake Welch is a 2020 law graduate living in Frankfurt-am-Main while travelling in Europe this year. He plans to study to become a barrister.

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