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Lady Hale stars alongside Mock the Week comedian Hugh Dennis in play about an Oxford law student

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Sir Brian Leveson will be in it too

Two of the country’s top judges will be starring in the world premiere of a new play about an Oxford student who took the Law Society to court.

Deputy president of the Supreme Court Lady Hale and Sir Brian Leveson, of phone-hacking inquiry fame, will help chart the tale of Gwyneth Bebb — and it really is quite the tale.

Paving the way for women to be admitted to the legal profession, Bebb (pictured below) took legal action against the Law Society in 1913 while she was studying jurisprudence at Oxford University. She scored top marks among her class of 400 men but, thanks to university regulations, was not awarded a degree. She wanted to pursue a career as a solicitor, but was barred from doing so because she was a woman.

Gwyneth Bebb with her daughter Diana (1919)

Though Bebb, represented by law firm Withers, lost her case at first instance and then again in the Court of Appeal, she continued to campaign for women’s rights. In 1919, it was written into law that women could become lawyers.

One year later in 1920, Bebb began to study for her bar exams and was expected to be the first woman called to the bar in England. Unfortunately, she died in 1921 aged 31, just months after a difficult birth with her second daughter, who was born prematurely and died at two days old.

Bebb clearly had an interesting life, and now legal charity The Kalisher Trust is hoping to encapsulate this in what it’s describing as a “fascinating new play”.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour yesterday, playwright Alex Giles described the story as one of “twists and turns”. He feels Bebb has never received the recognition she deserves, and he thinks her story is one that “really needs a wider audience.”

Sitting alongside Giles on the radio show was the Court of Appeal’s Lady Justice Rafferty, who thinks the play is “illuminating”. Gender diversity and equality in legal practice is still an issue, and Rafferty — who was called to the bar in 1974 — recalled being “regularly patronised” throughout her career. She said:

If people were wasting their energy patronising me, I would not waste any of mine. I would focus exclusively on the case.

Hale and Leveson will be performing ‘The Disappearance of Miss Bebb’ alongside Call the Midwife actress Laura Main, regular Mock the Week panellist Hugh Dennis, and actor Ray Fearon, who recently starred in the brand new Beauty and the Beast remake. Leveson will be playing Mr Justice Joyce who heard the original case. Hale will be playing Chrystal MacMillan, the suffragist who organised the case.

The play will be performed on 2 April in Middle Temple Hall.

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18 Comments

Anonymous

Not Amused should play the misogynistic Judge at first instance.

(13)(1)

Anonymous

NA is a woman though.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Surely you mean a man in drag ?

(1)(1)

Anonymous

No, a woman.

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Anonymous

Lord Harley of Counsel to play all roles.

(8)(0)

Anonymous

Well the law society in Northern Ireland still makes it impossible for women with family commitments or single parents to become barristers so it hasn’t really moved on has it? Indirect discrimination happens now under politically correct names.

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Anonymous

What does the Law Soc NI have to do with barristers?

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Not Amused

So this will be after they retire?

Because otherwise it’s a pretty pathetic way to demean the judiciary. Everyone who got huffy when Liz Truss called David Neuberger ‘David Neuberger’ will surely recognise that. Or are we to say that it is ok to have our senior judges dress up as clowns as long as they do so in support of a political cause we agree with?

If there isn’t a clause in their employment contract specifically prohibiting this, then I imagine it can only be because the draftsman had no contemplation that a judge could be so lacking in basic common sense.

I look forward to the end of this self indulgent and wholly narcissistic judicial generation which fails repeatedly to do its actual day job or to preserve and protect the justice system and instead tries solely to get attention and more praise. I look to the younger judges in the hope that basic sanity will be restored. This is truly pathetic. I shall go on to ponder whether these people could possibly lower themselves any further in my estimation.

(2)(13)

Not Amused

Unless of course this is an early April Fools?

I sincerely hope so.

(3)(3)

Anonymous

“The Kalisher Trust (registered charity no: 1062363) is a legal charity which supports those who aspire to become criminal barristers. We seek talent irrespective of background, and, since our inception in 1996 have helped hundreds of young people, from primary school children to young barristers, as they work toward success in this most demanding profession. We run an extensive programme, which includes a dedicated education arm.”

Ah yes, that terribly “political cause” of helping young people qualify as members of the bar. I cannot think of a better and less controversial cause for the judges to be supporting. Good luck to them.

(1)(0)

Not Amused

I didn’t criticise the cause, I criticised the action purporting to support the cause. Clearly some actions are not acceptable, no matter the cause.

For example a ‘sponsored rape-a-thon’ would be unacceptable even if it raised money for Children in Need. There is, and must be, a line – the cause is not relevant.

In the case of sitting judges that line is even more restrictive because matters such as the dignity of the judiciary and the public’s faith in the justice system come in to play. A judge cannot make bad judgements in their personal life and then convince the public to have faith in their ability to make professional judgments.

One of the least attractive features of the narcissistic left is this belief that the cause can entirely justify their actions. It can’t. These are sitting judges paid out of the public purse. They represent Her Majesty the Queen – should she too prance around on stage. If you are interested in advancing the cause of women judges (as I am) then Hale is particularly important and every time she does something particularly stupid that a male SCJ does not do then she harms that cause. If you support (as I do) the cause of poor children getting proper access to the profession then you can see that that too is not assisted by wealthy privileged people prancing around on stage like idiots.

The idea that legitimate concerns or criticism should be silenced because it is “for charidee” is risible and denotes a particularly cancerous line of argument in our nation – I would remind you of Mr Saville. Expecting our judges to behave with a bit more dignity and a bit less narcissism is not something for which I intend to apologise.

(5)(3)

Not Amused's therapist.

It’s just a play… in middle temple hall… that will be seen mostly by lawyers… to raise a bit of money for charity.

Jeez.

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Not that different to Revels one might suggest

Anonymous

I like the raisins and the coffee-flavoured ones.

Anonymous

Bore off. Your ‘estimation’ is irrelevant.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

You’re not a barrister.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Lady Hale – the Beyonce of the stage.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Astonishing that this was the case less than 100 years ago.

(0)(0)

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