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Judiciary needs to be more diverse so public don’t view us as ‘beings from another planet’, says Lady Hale

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As profession gears up to celebrate 100 years of women in law

© UK Supreme Court / Kevin Leighton

Supreme Court president Lady Hale has called for greater judicial diversity in the form of balanced gender representation in the UK’s highest court, and swifter progress promoting those from minority ethnic and less-privileged backgrounds.

Speaking to The Guardian in an interview to mark the centenary of the 1919 act that dismantled barriers preventing women from entering the legal profession, Hale, one of three women that currently make up the top court’s 12-seat bench, said:

“My own view is up to a quarter [on the UK supreme court] is an important breakthrough but that there’s no right number of justices of either gender. An ideal balance would be at least 60/40 either way. And so we still have a little way to go towards that.”

Continuing, the country’s most senior judge, who up until mid-2017 was the only woman on the bench, said there are several reasons for championing a more diverse judiciary. The most important of these is so the public can “look at the judges and say ‘they are our judges’,” rather than “beings from another planet”.

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Diversity, according to Hale, a staunch advocate for gender equality, also helps bring “different perspectives to the discussion”, particularly on a “collegiate” court. “We are all products of our background and our experiences, so the greater the diversity, the better,” Hale told The Guardian.

Elsewhere, the report says that Hale feels more progress is needed in advancing people from ethnic minority backgrounds to senior judicial positions. She offered a recommendation:

“The way we can try and improve diversity in the higher echelons is being more open to transfers from other [courts]. And there have been appointments from the upper tier [tribunals] to the high court. So that is beginning to happen [though] it’s still quite slow.”

Seventy-three-year-old Hale, who grew up in rural North Yorkshire before going on to study law at Cambridge, said she hopes the judiciary will attract “more people who have had less privileged lives”. She explained:

“I have had a privileged life [but] I don’t come from a privileged background and that is helpful. I have experienced various disappointments and setbacks in my life. I think all of this is quite helpful.”

Hale’s remarks come months after the Supreme Court received its first ever female majority when two male and three female justices heard the case of Re D — the first time this has happened in the UK’s highest court or its predecessor, the House of Lords.

From today until the end of the month, the Supreme Court is hosting a free pop-up art exhibition celebrating the centenary of the Sex Disqualification (Removal) Act, the 1919 law which made it possible for women to be admitted to the legal profession.

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19 Comments

Martinned

I like the idea that “the public” (whoever that may be) won’t view the judiciary as beings from another planet regardless. Hope springs eternal, I guess….

(8)(0)

Anonymous

Most Barristers are quite simply from another planet, time to break up the Chambers’ monopoly.

(3)(2)

Anonymous

As Mel Trump might say “I really don’t care, do you?”

(0)(1)

Anonymous

It needs to be just, skilled and effective. That’s what it needs to be and not fashionably PC.

(36)(7)

Anonymous

I want a 60/40 balance of cishets to LGBTQIA++

(4)(9)

My 2 scene

But what if what we have is not just, fair and effective? And they keep on appointing their rubgy mates? That’s her point. Talent comes in all guises but some people choose to overlook that fact.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

The Bar is generally fu(ked up and giving pre-eminence to an unaccountable Chambers system is largely to blame. There must be many more ways made available to practice than through the Chambers system.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

No we should not. We should aim for equality of opportunity, not equality of outcome. Sigh.

(25)(3)

Tpkg

Boring. Let’s knock the sorry experiment of leftic academics straight to the Supreme Court on the head

(10)(7)

Anonymous

Perhaps it would assist if they stopped dressing like beings from another century.

(6)(9)

Anonymous

Don’t be a twit. What matters is the talent of the judges (sadly increasingly going missing), not what they’re wearing.

(4)(2)

Anonymous

Unfortunately people are twits, and twits will look at what they are wearing and judge them negatively based on that. It would be quite simple to change that and there would be no harm in doing so.

(2)(3)

Anonymous

Of course quality is important, but 17th/18th century dress is a little passe and doesn’t do much to dispel the belief that judges are out of touch. Most practitioners who have to wear this stuff on a daily basis would be quite happy to dispense with it.

(0)(1)

PASSION4FASSHUN

Judging by their ages they are definitely beings from another century.

I want a WOKE SC millenial judge with purple hair, a nose piercing and fuckboy glasses sporting a che guvera t-shirt.

(8)(2)

Anonymous

Frankly I won’t settle for anything less than a Prince Albert peeking through the tights.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Yawn.

This diversity drivel has been debunked so many times, repeating it is just getting boring.

No, we are not departing from established principles of equality of opportunity.

If you have a problem with that, may I respectfully suggest that you get stuffed.

(16)(5)

Anonymous

More fair minded judges would be good, with an understanding of the concerns of the parties who are asking them to make judgements.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

I don’t like quotas, though when you’re talking about judges in particular I agree that there’s a public policy argument against homogeneity. Class and cultural background are as big an issue as anything.

This “what about muh trans judges” type of reply is a straw man.

(1)(2)

Anonymous

As a man in his 30s who identifies as trans, but is actually heterosexual and gender conformist, I think that more opportunity should be given to LGBTQIA++(-ve) ^∞ applicants.

(12)(1)

Comments are closed.

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