First female Lord Chief Justice appointed in 755 years

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By Aishah Hussain on


Who run the courts?!

Dame Sue Carr

Dame Sue Carr, 58, has been appointed Lord Chief Justice of England & Wales, becoming the first woman to hold the post in 755 years.

She assumes the role from 1 October 2023, following the retirement of Lord Burnett of Maldon.

The appointment was made by the King on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Lord Chancellor after the recommendation of an independent selection panel.

Dame Victoria Sharp, 67, president of the King’s Bench Division of the High Court, was the other candidate in the running for the top job, but now effectively becomes the Lord Chief Justice’s deputy.

More than 100 men have held the post since it was established in 1268. Carr will be invited to choose her own title: Lord Chief Justice, Lady Chief Justice or simply Chief Justice, according to legal commentator Joshua Rozenburg, but the official release uses the traditional form.

Commenting on the appointment, Lubna Shuja, president of the Law Society of England & Wales, said: “This is a historic moment and I hope will lead to further progress on women’s representation within the judiciary.”

“Only around a third of judges in our courts are women, with even fewer in the senior judiciary. We need to see this improve,” said Shuja. “This momentous appointment is a sign that times are changing.”

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Carr grew up in Surrey, attending Wycombe Abbey School before reading law at Trinity College, Cambridge. She was called to the bar in 1987 and undertook pupillage at Brick Court Chambers and 2 Crown Office Row, now 4 New Square, where she became a tenant in 1988. She developed a broad commercial practice, taking silk in 2003.

Her judicial career began in 2009, when she was appointed a recorder. She was appointed a High Court judge in 2013 and a Court of Appeal judge in 2020.

Carr is married with three children. She was formerly a keen actress, performing with the Bar Theatrical Society. She currently sings with the Bar Choral Society and plays the piano.

Yesterday evening, an hour after her appointment was formally announced, we were in Carr’s presence as she presided over the final of 4 Pump Court‘s annual Pride Moot.

The Lord Chief Justice is the head of the judiciary and the president of the courts of England & Wales. They represent the views of the judiciary to parliament and the government.

Carr faces challenging tasks ahead, with issues such as the backlog of cases to barrister strikes to cuts to funding, likely topping her agenda.

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