Are Judges representative of society? Probably not. White, male and middle class is the common criticism and stereotype of the judiciary. The vast majority of Judges will come from backgrounds which will have enabled them to go to university and been given every chance to perform well in their education. The issues in cases and the law that applies, can be complex, so it is only natural that the more intelligent and better educated in society are appointed to decide cases. However, the lives and experiences of Judges may have been very different from the people their decisions affect and whose arguments they have to hear.
Recently, James Munby of the Law Society’s family section highlighted the issues Judges face in dealing with people of differing backgrounds and religious beliefs. What is acceptable in one culture may not be acceptable, or even legal, in another.
There are various types of Judges who have different seniority and who deal with different types of work. In small claims matters, you are likely to be before a District Judge or Deputy (part time) District Judge. These are the less senior of the civil Judges and therefore amongst them there tends to be a greater proportion of Judges from different ages, backgrounds, ethnicity and religious beliefs.
We live in a multicultural society and the judiciary should aim to be reflective of society as a whole. It will take time for the make up of the judiciary to become more representative of its people. Barriers to education and jobs in the law need to be removed to help the process along but there is no overnight solution.
In criminal cases, the balance can be better kept as the juries are made up of a random selection of individuals from society. In civil cases, there are no juries so decisions fall on the Judge who hears the evidence.