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Women will race to the top of the judicial ranks in 2017, says Joshua Rozenberg QC

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Four female names put forward in predictions piece

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There will be more women on the Supreme Court bench by the end of 2017 than there were at the beginning, predicts Joshua Rozenberg QC.

This is according to a piece written by the top legal affairs journalist — who is very well-connected to the judiciary — on the court’s upcoming shake-up.

There will be three Supreme Court justice-shaped holes to fill come the summer, which is when Lords Neuberger and Clarke are scheduled to step down. Lord Toulson rounds off the trio; though he hung up his robes back in 2016, his vacancy has still not been filled.

With retirements come replacements, and Rozenberg thinks deputy president and law student favourite Lady Hale “is a racing certainty” to take over from president Neuberger.

As for new female faces, honorary QC Rozenberg names three he believes are in the running for Supreme Court stardom.

One is appeal judge Lady Justice Black who, like Hale, has a strong family law background. He tips her as a “strong candidate”. Second is the Court of Appeal’s Lady Justice Gloster, though Rozenberg does caveat his prediction slightly by stating that — because of statutory retirement dates — her appointment would be for less than two years. Interestingly, he has also punted for European Union Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston, noting “she would be of immense value to the Supreme Court as it grapples with the consequences of Brexit”.

Rozenberg’s latest post names more female Supreme Court contenders than his previous predictions piece, and it’s also worth remembering there are further opportunities for increased gender parity in the courts this year.

Notably, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd will be waving goodbye to his Lord Chief Justice position come October, and there’s scope for a woman to replace him. Though Sir Brian Leveson, of phone-hacking inquiry fame, is “the favoured candidate”, Rozenberg said:

Lady Justice Hallett will certainly throw her hat in the ring and could serve until December 2019. The press will back her — not just because it would be good to have a woman as chief justice but because newspapers oppose the implementation of section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which derives from Leveson’s press inquiry in 2012.

He also floats the possibility of Lady Justice Sharp, Leveson’s current deputy as the Vice-President of the Queen’s Bench Division. If Leveson does end up scoring the top job, Sharp “may well” succeed him when he retires in 2019. So, while it might not be imminent, it’s likely gender equality in the upper echelons of the judiciary is going to improve in the next few years.

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