The rule of law depends on every person being treated equally within our justice system, the Law Society of England and Wales said today following the government’s commitment to tackling racial inequality in the Criminal Justice System.
“The Law Society is committed – alongside dedicated practitioners who work in criminal justice – to supporting the government in improving the system in the public interest and to ensure all are equal in the eyes of the law," said Law Society president Joe Egan.
"We recognise the importance of a legal profession – at all levels – that reflects the population it serves. The Law Society has made great strides in increasing diversity in the solicitor profession so that today the proportion of solicitors from BAME backgrounds – at 14.1% – closely mirrors the general population.
"At more senior levels, however, we have a lot of work to do before we can say with any confidence we or the judiciary demonstrate diversity.”
The Law Society has a number of initiatives to encourage people from diverse backgrounds to join the solicitor profession and to aim for judicial roles. We are helping firms adopt fair recruitment and development procedures, and supporting them to recognise unconscious bias."
Joe Egan added: "Criminal defence solicitors are uniquely placed to ensure defendants from minority ethnic backgrounds are treated fairly. They have a duty always to act in their client's best interests.
“We will work with government and other branches of the criminal justice system to ensure all defendants are aware their solicitor is completely independent of the police or other criminal justice agencies.
“It is our responsibility to ensure clients understand their solicitor’s efforts are entirely directed to achieving the best possible result for their client within the law and in the circumstances of the case.”
Criminal legal aid solicitors are critical for ensuring anyone accused of wrongdoing has a fair trial. But the viability of firms doing criminal defence work is under threat as remuneration rates for criminal legal aid work have not been increased since 1998.
Joe Egan concluded: "Criminal justice is at the heart of a democratic society and underpins the rule of law."
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The Law Society is the independent professional body that works globally to support and represent solicitors, promoting the highest professional standards, the public interest and the rule of law.
Press office contact: Harriet Beaumont | Harriet.Beaumont@LawSociety.org.uk | +44 (0)20 7320 5830