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John Vander Luit

Editor, Solicitors Journal

Lady Hale to become Supreme Court president

Lady Hale to become Supreme Court president


New president to be joined by second ever woman on UK's highest Court

Lady Hale will become the first woman to preside over the Supreme Court, replacing the retiring Lord Neuberger this autumn, it was announced today alongside a number of other senior judicial appointments.

'It is a great honour and a challenge to be appointed to succeed Lord Neuberger,' said Lady Hale. 'I look forward to building upon his pioneering achievements, including developing 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.'

Baroness Hale of Richmond graduated from the University of Cambridge before going on to teach law at Manchester University from 1966 to 1984, also qualifying as a barrister, specialising in family and social welfare law.

She became the UK's first female Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in January 2004. It followed five years sitting in the Court of Appeal and five years as a High Court judge. She has been deputy president of the Supreme Court since June 2013.

Welcoming the appointment, Lord Neuberger said: 'I have had the pleasure of working closely with Lady Hale over the last five years, and have seen at first hand the intellect and humanity with which she approaches the appeals which come before her, as well as her commitment to the rule of law, legal education, and building public understanding of the work of the courts.'

'For Lady Hale to become president of the institution to which she has contributed so much is a fitting pinnacle to a truly ground-breaking career,' he added.

'Tireless' campaigner

Law Society president Joe Egan said he was 'delighted' by the news: 'Not only does [Lady Hale] have an outstanding legal mind, she has also campaigned for greater judicial diversity tirelessly and with good humour for many years.

'With Lady Hale as their inspiration, I hope more women '“ and others from diverse backgrounds '“ will feel that the legal profession is one in which they can realise their ambitions.'

Chair of the Bar, Andrew Langdon QC, said: 'It is well known that Baroness Hale is a most distinguished jurist and has long been at the forefront in the task of arguing for a properly diverse judiciary. Her appointment will serve as an encouragement to all in showing how important this is.'

New justices

Lady Hale will no longer be the sole female voice on the Supreme Court following the appointment of Lady Justice Black who fills one of three vacancies on the bench. She is only the second ever woman to sit in the UK's highest court.

Black LJ studied at Durham University before practising at the Bar and teaching law. A family law specialist, she was appointed to the High Court in 1999, assigned to the Family Division. She was appointed a Lady Justice of Appeal in 2010 and is currently the head of International Family Justice.

Black LJ will be joined by Lord Justice Lloyd Jones and Lord Justice Briggs, who will begin their tenure as Supreme Court justices on 2 October.

Lloyd Jones LJ graduated from Downing College, University of Cambridge. He was the independent adviser to the court in the Pinochet litigation and in 2012 he was appointed a Lord Justice of Appeal. From 2012 to 2015 he was chairman of the Law Commission.

Briggs LJ attended the University of Oxford and practised in commercial and chancery work at the Bar. He was appointed to the High Court in 2006 and as a Lord Justice of Appeal in 2013. He led the Civil Courts Structure Review and is leading the implementation of its recommendations for the HMCTS Reform Programme. In January 2016, he was appointed deputy head of civil justice.

Recruitment crisis

Downing Street also confirmed the appointments of one Lady Justice and six Lord Justices of Appeal. The new appointments are Mrs Justice Asplin, Mr Justice Coulson, Mr Justice Holroyde, Mr Justice Peter Jackson, Mr Justice Leggatt, Mr Justice Newey, and Mr Justice Singh, who will become the only serving Black, Asian, Minority, Ethnic judge at the Court of Appeal.

There are currently 38 Court of Appeal judges of whom 8 are women. With Black LJ set to join the Supreme Court bench, Asplin J's appointment will mean the number and make up of the appeal court remains the same.

The latest judicial appointments come as the judiciary faces a recruitment crisis. Ed Crosse, president of the London Solicitors Litigation Association, warned that, with a shortfall in suitable candidates for the last two years, a 'lack of judicial diversity' affecting both the civil and criminal courts appeared to be worsening.

'This year the Judicial Appointments Committee is looking to fill 25 High Court positions, around a quarter of the number of High Court judges overall. It seems unlikely that it will be able to do so. The low morale on the bench is well known and is having a direct impact on recruitment and retention,' said the Simmons & Simmons partner.

'If we are to reverse this trend and maintain London's position as the forum of choice for international disputes, the government must introduce measures to address this concern as a matter of urgency, and that will mean substantial investment in our courts. This would be a financially prudent investment for the government to make given the substantial income that legal services generate for the national purse.'

Matthew Rogers, reporter | @lex_progress