A government review has said that more should be done to attract diverse candidates to the judiciary.

According to the Advisory Panel on Judicial Diversity, women, gay people, ethnic minorities and disabled people should receive preferential treatment over other candidates at the end of the selection process.

The report said that the judiciary should take advantage of equality measures to use positive discrimination when two candidates were equally qualified.

But it ruled out using diversity quotas for judges.

There are no figures for how many judges are gay or lesbian, although 19 per cent are thought to be female and four per cent are estimated to be from ethnic minorities.

Only three of the 163 most senior judges are from an ethnic minority.

Baroness Neuberger, who chairs the advisory panel, said: “There are some groups who are less likely to apply, who feel that they are less likely to get through if they do apply. There may be some people who you particularly encourage, but that doesn’t mean they are going to get the job.”

The report said that law firms and senior judges should be asked to encourage “under-represented” colleagues to consider applying to the judiciary.

It said that this would not replace the standard selection procedure.

The Ministry of Justice said it had fully accepted the report’s recommendations.

Justice secretary and Lord Chancellor Jack Straw said: “I warmly welcome their findings and their recommendations. Becoming a judge must be, and must be seen to be, open in practice to everyone with the right skills and qualities.”