Lawyers are furious about Lord Sumption’s claim that more women judges ‘could have appalling consequences for justice’

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By Alex Aldridge on

Trolling: Supreme Court Judge-style


Twitter has erupted in anger at comments made by Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption warning of “appalling consequences for justice” if more women are rushed into the judiciary.

Blackstone Chambers‘ Dinah Rose QC is leading the charge against Sumption — who used to work at rival commercial set Brick Court before being fast-tracked into the nation’s highest court in 2012 — with support from former Court of Appeal judge Sir Henry Brooke.

But first more on those crazy Sumption comments — which are so out there and provocative that they almost seem like deliberate trolling from the Supreme Court man.

In an interview in yesterday’s Evening Standard, Sumption urged the legal profession to stick to the glacial pace at which it is increasing female representation in its senior ranks.

To do otherwise, said the top judge who is also famous for penning history books, would be to misunderstand the very nature of time itself. He explained:

These things simply can’t be transformed overnight, not without appalling consequence in other directions. One has to look at the totality of these problems and not simply at one of them. The lack of diversity is a significant problem, but it isn’t the only one. It takes time. You’ve got to be patient. The change in the status and achievements of women in our society, not just in the law but generally, is an enormous cultural change that has happened over the last 50 years or so. It has to happen naturally. It will happen naturally. But in the history of a society like ours, 50 years is a very short time.

If this wasn’t calculated to annoy, then Sumption must be, well, just a naturally very annoying person. Anyway, Twitter went wild — led by Rose:

At her side was former Court of Appeal judge Sir Henry Brooke:

Too many other top lawyers to mention also piled in…

By the way, the prize for best tweet in the Twitter storm goes to One Crown Office Row barrister Adam Wagner.

In the Evening Standard interview, Sumption also said that he backed female equality and wanted to see “hidden barriers to the progress of women” removed, while warning about the “difficult” high attrition rate of female lawyers at partner and QC level. He put this down to “frankly appalling working conditions” that men are more likely to tolerate.

Sumption went on to predict that in the future gender would one day be “a wholly random matter, so it will be either 50/50 or somewhere round there.”

Currently 21 out of 106 High Court judges are female, and just eight of the 38 Court of Appeal judges are women. The 12-strong Supreme Court, meanwhile, has just one female member, Baroness Hale.