Ashfield MP demands change to UK’s ‘London-centric’ legal system

As shadow justice minister, I’ve been lucky enough to work with a range of people with an interest in the law, writes Gloria De Piero MP.

Lawyers have supported me with policy development, victims have bravely spoken out so we can demand action from the government and charities who are dealing with the negative consequences of Government cuts to everything from policing to prisons to legal aid, have helped me hold the Tories to account.

Gloria De Piero MP

Gloria De Piero MP

One of the things that has struck me about the legal profession though, is how little it looks like the country it serves.

According to The Sutton Trust, 71 per cent of top QCs, 74 per cent of judges and 51 per cent of partners in top law firms attended private school – astonishing given that just seven per cent of children are educated privately.

Even 27 per cent of solicitors went to private school, according to the Law Society.

Three-quarters of judges and 80 per cent of top QCs went to Oxbridge.

Steps are being taken to address this shocking bias towards the rich elite but there is a long way to go.

I have previously written about Sutton teenager Bryony Toon, who has ambitions to be a top human rights lawyer and who has applied to Oxford University to study law.

Bryony certainly isn’t the only one who has found breaking into the law like entering a daunting and unfamiliar world.

The profession is so London-centric that it can be hard to find placements at law firms based outside London and the Inns that house the next generation of barristers are all in London.

More must be done to establish regional centres to draw on the full talent of the country, rather than requiring young people to leave their homes and head for England’s expensive capital.

Law firms need to be more transparent about who they are recruiting, scholarship and bursary programmes need expanding and the profession must increase its diversity.

The legal system must start to look like the country it serves so it can be a truly representative justice system.