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Female barristers granted access to top London court’s male-only robing room

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Gender should play no part in the role or status of an advocate, says Southwark judge

The all-male robing room at Southwark Crown Court has opened its doors to female advocates for the first time following a judicial intervention.

Until recently, Southwark — which handles some of London’s most serious financial crime trials — had three robing rooms in the 1980s building, a large men-only one and two smaller ones just for women.

For those unfamiliar with the somewhat archaic terminology, robing rooms are essentially areas housed within a court building that allow barristers to change into their wig and gown, discuss cases and hide from troublesome clients.

Now, thanks to senior circuit judge Deborah Taylor, Southwark’s testosterone-filled recreation room is no more. Explaining the rationale behind the decision, she told the Evening Standard:

Firstly, the male robing room had better facilities including tables and chairs for working. It was unfair to the female barristers to be in cramped rooms. Secondly, there are now far more female barristers involved in fraud cases. Not being in the same robing room meant that they were sometimes excluded from conversations prior to court which took place between the male barristers. Some said that as a result agreements were made before they were consulted.

Her Honour Judge Taylor, who was appointed a senior circuit judge to the South London criminal court back in April, continued:

[It] reinforces that gender should play no part in the role or status of a barrister.

Putting gender equality to one side, the decision — which was formally implemented earlier this summer — triggered suppressed memories for 5KBW’s criminal silk Sarah Forshaw.

Other lawyers appeared to take issue with the Standard referring to the historic spaces as “locker rooms”.

It has also been in such robing rooms that a number of weird and wonderful objects have been discovered and reported on Legal Cheek. These include, among other items, a Scalextric, two Gameboy consoles (with marketing stand), a car wheel and a drunk octopus.

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36 Comments

Anonymous

Of all the things to comment on in this story, the description of a robing room as a locker room must be the most pointless and petty.

I couldn’t give a monkey’s whether Rosamund Irwin calls it a locker room, a changing room, a dressing room or a cloakroom.

I thought her article was excellent. One of the best and most effective accounts of the barriers faced by women at the Bar that I’ve seen.

(11)(9)

Anonymous

Funny how no comment here relates to upcoming CMS retention figures.

(5)(0)

Scouser of Counsel

The vast majority of Crown Courts (and I really have been to the vast majority of Crown Courts in England and Wales) do not even have separate robing rooms for male and female advocates.

If separate accommodation must be maintained at all, how about going down the Winchester Crown Court model where there are two pokey robing rooms, one male and one female, and a much larger “advocates lounge” on the top floor with stunning views?

(8)(0)

Commander Plingeworthy

I, Commander Plingeworthy, smeller of BS, challenge you to name all the Crown Courts that you have been to!

(0)(0)

Scouser of Counsel

Allow me an adjournment to consult my list…

(0)(0)

Scouser of Counsel

Aylesbury, Barrow, Basildon, Blackfriars, Bolton, Bournemouth, Bradford, Burnley, Caernarfon, Canterbury, Cardiff, Carlisle, Central Criminal Court, Chelmsford, Chester, Croydon, Derby, Exeter, Gloucester, Grimsby, Harrow, Hereford, Inner London, Kingston-upon-Thames, Knutsford, Lancaster, Leeds, Leicester, Lewes, Luton, Manchester (both), Merthyr Tydfil, Mold, Northampton, Newport (S.Wales), Nottingham, Oxford, Peterborough, Portsmouth, Preston (both), Reading (both), Salisbury, Sheffield, Southampton, Southwark, St Albans, Stafford, Swansea, Swindon, Taunton, Truro, Warrington and Winchester.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

So no Wood Green then. You never appeared before Lyons. You lucky Scouser.

(0)(0)

Scouser of Counsel

No, never been to Wood Green.

Missed one, though, York.

(0)(0)

Commander Plingeworthy

With dates, please.

Credit lost for incomplete list.

Might have been impressive otherwise…

Anonymous

Country is going to the dogs.

(12)(3)

Anonymous

We are the very unfortunate generation to preside over this abhorrent decline of western civilisation.

(3)(2)

Anonymous

As long as they don’t start letting women in my member’s club, then I’m happy.

(14)(7)

Ali S @ the CPS

Do you realise how grossly offensive that is?

Expect a knock at the door.

(1)(2)

Anonymous

Gender neutrality for the win

(2)(6)

Anonymous

If the author has ever been to southwark and seen the robing rooms they may have also noticed the rather large advocates lounge where amazingly boys and girls have sat side by side for years. I think on being granted access the girls will have found it an anti climax but for the boys it’s been a pain having to suck our bellies in.

(4)(3)

Anonymous

Will attack helicopters have access to the robing room too???

(14)(3)

Libeturd Leftie

Why is this still a thing in 2017? And why would it take a “decree” from a Judge to change this vestigial appendage.

I truly despair sometimes… truly

(3)(4)

Anonymous

This issue has to be low hanging fruit all around ! For the judge, for the disgruntled female barristers and the press. I bet it gets a few column inches in the local Southwark free newspaper as well !

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Fast forward a few months and we will no doubt hear of some allegation of sexual harassment.

Poor little snowdrops.

(4)(11)

Anonymous

What do you expect with your wandering hands.

(5)(0)

Libeturd Leftie

So you are saying that the male members of our noble profession will not and/or cannot control themselves at the sight of women so its better not to “mix” the sexes as a result.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Who said anything about men doing the harassing? Woman with a finger up your jacksie “dance for me like the puppet that you are”. Equality in all things snowflake.

(3)(2)

Fairly Middling Expert on multidimensional geometric shapes.

How is Southwark Crown Court :”Top London Court”?
It’s on Wilson’s wharf, on the south side, which makes it rather low and bottom. It’s design to make it fit into the adjacent warehouses created a nouveau brutalist structure, which exudes an atmosphere of fear and depression both within and without.
And it’s only a poxy crown court for heaven sake.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

In the northern hemisphere innit. Durrrrrrrhhhhhh

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Tom sat in the darkened corner of LC’s dingy offices, thumbing studiously through a dog-eared copy of the Pocket-sized Oxford English Dictionary, the only book aside from an aging copy of the Chambers guide to occupy the one dusty shelf in the office. It was late, but he had to solve this problem.

Alex opened the door, wearing his coat and carrying a blue carrier bag from the nearby off licence. Twelve cans of special brew were easily visible through the thin plastic. Tom turned on hearing the door. “You off now?” he asked his boss and mentor.

“Yeah, I erm, got a hot date”. Alex said, looking at his shoes. He paused briefly, both he and Tom inwardly knowing that was a lie. In reality, much like every other evening, Alex would just be sinking the contents of the bag the minute he got on the bus, before being dragged off at the last stop to sleep off his stupor in the bus drivers’ lounge. The drivers were almost like family now.

Changing the subject, Alex nodded towards the book Tom was holding. “You still trying to solve the unsolvable mystery?”, he asked.

Tom let out a sigh and nodded. “There’s just no two ways about it” he said, tapping the cover of the book for emphasis “it’s just not in here. The whole page where ‘top’ should be has been removed. I still don’t know what it means”.

Alex looked sympathetic. “Don’t think too much about it. We’ve all been there. Do what we all do. Just use ‘top’ to describe everything, regardless whether it’s the best or not. It’s like a stopped clock – use it enough and it’s going to be correct at some point”.

Tom glumly nodded agreement. He knew that he would be facing a barrage of comments upon describing every middle of the road, obscure law firm, chambers, court and barrister as top, but he just had no other choice.

(58)(0)

Anonymous

Amazing.

(3)(0)

Alex

That’s uncannily accurate and nicely expressed too. Would you consider a job here? We guarantee to pay you the National Minimum Wage – if you are over 25, that’s £7.50 per hour!!

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Whoever rights these has serious talent. I say ditch anonymous LC comments and become an author

(3)(0)

Anonymous

*Writes

(0)(3)

Anonymous

This is awesome.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I’ve never heard another male barrister give a fig about whether the robing room is mixed or not. Most are nowadays. That Southwark was still separate is simply because no one cared enough to change it until now.

One of course hopes the female robing rooms will now be mixed too and we can all make use of more space, just like Snaresbrook has multiple robing rooms.

There is no difference between mixed and separate robing rooms. I’m sure we all do exactly the same thing in them: moan about the bullshit state of our profession.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Agreed – I think most people really couldn’t give a toss about this type of thing. The minority is vocal and stroppy I guess..

(2)(0)

Scouser of Counsel

It seems that the issue here was the unequal accommodation provided.

Switching the “male” robing room to one of the two pokey “female” roving rooms and making the lounge unisex sounds like common sense to me, if anyone really cares at all…

See Winchester example, ante.

(1)(0)

Nurse Dablitz

Doc. There’s a lawyer in here.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

“Firstly, the male robing room had better facilities including tables and chairs for working”

LOL – everyone knows criminal barristers don’t do work. They just get to their feet and spout – there’s no actual law involved.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

Well, even on that description they do more than criminal solicitors

(2)(0)

Comments are closed.