We have our First Female President of the British Supreme Court

In what has been called a ‘historic day’, and certainly something that I think should be getting more press coverage, Baroness Hale of Richmond has become the first female president of the Supreme Court.

The groundbreaking appointment was announced first by Downing Street, and approved by the Queen in July. Greeting the news as an, “honor and a challenge” Baroness Hale stated that she wanted to use her role to, “develop closer links with each part of the United Kingdom, for example by sitting outside London, and improving the ways in which we communicate our work to the public”.

“Recent high-profile cases mean that more people than ever before have heard of the Supreme Court, and we hope that this will help to create a broader understanding of how the judiciary serves society.”

Which is certainly no mean feat! Though it’s this touch of personality and a determined sense of the broader picture which has lead to the 72-year-old becoming the first female president.

Having spent her formative years in Yorkshire, she has worked throughout the UK and in a variety of roles. First attending a grammar school in Richmond, then university in Cambridge and, afterwards, teaching law at Manchester University.

When she qualified as a barrister in Manchester, Lady Hale then went on to specialising in family and social welfare law, eventually founding the influential Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law. Thereafter she became the first woman appointed to the Law Commission in 1984.

Only five years later Lady Hale was promoted again to become a high court judge. In a life of firsts this was another; the first high court judge to have made a career as an academic and public servant as opposed to being a practising barrister.

The baroness then became the first female Justice of the Supreme Court since its inception in 2009, taking up the position of deputy president in 2013. It was during this time that she ruled on important cases such as the parliamentary vote on Article 50, and the army pensions ruling on same sex marriages.

On her appointment, Lord Mance, the new deputy president had affirmed that Lady Hale has become, “the first female to head the UK’s highest court in any of its manifestations at any time. She has been and is role model for many, as well as a tireless promoter of women as well as other underrepresented groups in the judiciary and among lawyers.

“I have no doubt that Lady Hale will continue to make a very significant contribution to the jurisprudence of this court.”

Bringing a wide variety of experience and considerable knowledge of family and mental health law will hopefully broadened the understanding of how law applies to people from all walks of life, and I am certain that we will see a dynamism in UK law with the Lady Hale at the helm.

And whilst this is a step in the right direction – and a second female justice (Lady Black) has also been sworn in – there is still a lack of representation that needs to be addressed. Figures from earlier this year show that women and ethnic minorities are still very much in the minority. Women constitute 28% of court judges, and those from ethnic minorities only 7%.

This is great news. But the battle for representation is not over yet. Not by a long shot.

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