Belfast Telegraph

Gender inequality in courts slammed

The absence of any women High Court judges in Northern Ireland is an indictment on the judiciary, the Assembly has been told.

The low representation of judges from ethnic minorities is also a matter of concern, justice committee member Jennifer McCann said.

The Sinn Fein representative criticised the current state of affairs during a wider Assembly debate on how judges are appointed and replaced in the region.

The Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission (NIJAC) is undertaking an action programme in a bid to ensure the judiciary is more representative.

"What's really important here is the judiciary is not only independent and transparent but it is also reflective of society and that means all society," said Ms McCann.

"The lack of female representatives at those higher tiers in the judiciary is very, very important.

"Around 43% of the judiciary are women and yet while over half of the lay magistrates and the district civil judges, which is at the lower tier of the judiciary, they take up over half those positions, there are no women at all, no women High Court judges.

"And the county court and district magistrate court judges don't even make up a quarter of the quota of the judiciary at that level.

"So I think this is a very serious issue - the under-representation of women.

"And I think it is something that while there may not be discrimination, that's certainly something that NIJAC and other training organisations and everything else need to take on board, because I think there is a real problem in terms of gender equality here."

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