With nine places on highest bench shortly up for grabs, expect a shake-up
Lord Hodge has shot down Lord Sumption’s view that gender equality in the judiciary will take 50 years to achieve.
Wading into the debate which has electrified the legal profession over recent weeks, Hodge — who has sat alongside Sumption on the Supreme Court bench since October 2013 — said that he would be “quite astonished” if the number of female judges sitting in the UK’s top court had not significantly increased by the time he retired.
Noting that the gender balance is tipping faster than people think, the Scottish judge — who is due to retire in eight years — went on to say:
I would be very surprised if, even at Supreme Court level, the picture was not radically different from today. I don’t think Lord Sumption was right to say it would take 50 years, but I don’t think he is against diversity.
The 12-member bench is currently made up of 11 men and one woman. Nine judicial appointments to the Supreme Court are projected for the next five years — as judges including the top court’s president Lord Neuberger retire — so there will be ample opportunity for a major diversity shake up.
Speaking at yesterday’s Spark 21 conference, Hodge did accept that there was traditional lack of diversity in the judiciary, and this could stem from unconscious bias.
There is a danger that you recruit in your own image,” the Scottish justice explained. “You need to ask: ‘Is my attitude towards this particular person influenced by the fact that they are similar to me?’
The Cambridge graduate revealed that he did not agree that quotas should be introduced to combat this lack of diversity. Though quotas have been championed by the likes of Lady Hale — the Supreme Court’s only female judge (who is nicknamed Beyonce by law students) — Hodge believes that the profession is progressing without them. When pressed by conference chairwoman Dame Jenni Murray of BBC Woman’s Hour, he said:
I don’t support positive discrimination or quotas. I believe women do not want positive discrimination, but genuine equality.