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Top woman judge in 'diversity' plea

The UK's most senior woman judge says she is disappointed that more women have not reached the highest echelons of the judiciary.

Lady Hale, deputy president of the Supreme Court - and the only female Supreme Court justice - said she looked forward to a "more diverse future".

She was speaking to journalists in a media conference at the Supreme Court - which is based in London and is the highest court in the UK - staged to coincide with the start of the legal year.

Lady Hale became a Law Lord in 2004 when the the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords was the highest appeal court in the land. She became a Supreme Court justice when the Supreme Court was created in 2009.

"Most of you will also know that while I am flattered and proud to have been the first woman appointed as a Law Lord in 2004 I do not want to be the last," Lady Hale, who was a High Court judge and Court of Appeal judge before being promoted, told reporters.

"I am disappointed that in the 10 years since I was appointed not one among the 13 subsequent appointments to this court has been a woman.

"Now, things are improving in the lower ranks of the judiciary, but regrettably not here."

She the judiciary should be more reflective of society.

"I do not think I am alone in thinking that diversity of many kinds on the bench is important for a great many reasons, but most of all because in a democracy which values everyone equally and not just the privileged and the powerful, it is important that their rights and responsibilities should be decided by a judiciary which is more reflective of the society as a whole, and not just a very small section of it," she said.

"That is important not just in the trial courts which are deciding the facts of the matter, it is, if anything, even more important in this sort of court which is deciding those big issues of the examples that I have given you. So I do look forward to a more diverse future."

Lady Hale said she did not play any part in the selection process for new Supreme Court justices - although she was consulted.

"I think of the people who have to be consulted, I am the only woman," she said.

"I do not know whether the fact that the appointments process is dominated by men has anything to do with the choice of people.

"It would not be impossible to speculate that it is always much easier to perceive merit in people who are like you than it is to discern the merit of those who are a bit different."

But she said she would not favour a positive discrimination policy.

"I think that there is a great deal that can be done as long as people recognise the problem and recognise every single step along the way that contributes to the situation that we have," she said.

"The two principal causes are the facts that we have a legal profession which is divided into barristers and solicitors, coupled with the fact that only the top barristers have traditionally been seen as those possessed of the merit required to be a top judge.

"Analytically, there is no doubt that those are the two causes. I am not saying that we should have a fused legal profession, but one of the things, among many, that I say is that we could look much more broadly for top-calibre lawyers to be members of especially this court because we are not trial judges."


From Belfast Telegraph