Solicitor who qualified in 2009 and made partner in 2014 becomes UK’s youngest female judge at just 31

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By Thomas Connelly on

Briony Clarke’s swift ascent into the history books

A fresh-faced criminal solicitor has bagged herself a place in the history books by becoming what is believed to be the country’s youngest female judge.

At the sprightly age of just 31, Briony Clarke was sworn in as a deputy district judge at Chelmsford Crown Court yesterday. She will now sit part-time at magistrates’ courts on the London and South East circuit.

Clarke’s ascendance up the legal ranks is quite remarkable. At just 15 she landed an administrative assistant role at Chelmsford law firm Taylor Haldane Barlex (THB). Juggling work and study, she went on to complete her law degree and Legal Practice Course (LPC) at Anglia Ruskin University. Admitted to the roll in 2009, Clarke became an accredited duty solicitor in 2010, an associate at THB in 2013, and a partner just one year later.

Helping Clarke take her judicial oath yesterday, Judge Charles Gratwicke — who notably once allowed a defendant to bring his pet cat into Chelmsford Crown Court for “emotional support” — said:

It’s nice to have someone from our own community, embarking on the same career that we have all at some stage had to launch ourselves into.

Commenting on Clarke’s compulsory retirement date of January 2056, he continued:

It’s a long time. It just goes to show how young you are and how long a career you have. Many congratulations. Enjoy it.

However, Clarke isn’t the first 30-something to put on judicial robes. Last year, Anna Midgley, a criminal barrister at Albion Chambers in Bristol, became a part-time Crown Court recorder at just 33. But the accolade for the youngest judge ever goes to Richard Wright QC. The Leeds-based silk became a deputy district judge at just 29 back in 2006.

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