Mackay urges cultural understanding

THE LORD Chancellor says he wants to see an end to ignorance about different cultures in the legal system.

Speaking at this year's Kapila Lecture held at the Inns of Court School of Law, Lord Mackay said: “A person can unwittingly give an indication of unfairness if some aspect, say of a defendant's culture, is not known.”

Although he repeatedly expressed a wish to see more ethnic minority practitioners in the judiciary he acknowledged that significant moves have already been made.

He paid tribute to initiatives at the Lord Chancellor's Department to encourage the appointment of magistrates from ethnic minorities and the Ethnic Minorities Advisory Committee's training of judiciary.

“It is a requirement in their induction training that newly appointed justices give some consideration to their dealings with people from ethnic minorities in the court context.”

He outlined steps taken to encourage qualified practitioners to apply for judicial appointment. “In June 1994 I wrote to all heads of chambers, presidents of the local law societies and ethnic minority judges seeking their assistance in encouraging ethnic minority practitioners to apply for judicial appointment. A number wrote back saying they were happy to be involved.”

He said it was important to find those with the knowledge, skills and personal qualities for the responsibilities of office.