The only female judge in the UK supreme court has criticised the lack of diversity within its judicial appointments.
Lady Hale, 70, told an audience at Birmingham University, that the court ‘should be ashamed of itself’ with regards to its panel of judges. Until recently, all judges sitting on the bench at the supreme court have been white males, with most being privately educated.
Speaking of recent appointments to the 12-strong bench, she said, “One might have hoped that the opportunity would have been taken to achieve a more diverse collegium. It has not happened. All of those 13 appointments were men. All were white. All but two went to independent fee-paying schools. All but two went to Oxford or Cambridge. All were successful QCs in private practice, although one was a solicitor rather than a barrister.”
She continued, “There will inevitably be six vacancies on the supreme court between September 2016 and December 2018. If we do not manage to achieve a much more diverse court in the process of filling them, we ought to be ashamed of ourselves.”
Hale has made no secret of her support for diversity within the judiciary system and while speaking at the university she hinted that there was perhaps a need for positive discrimination.
“Excellence is important, though I am embarrassed to claim it. But so is diversity of expertise. And so is diversity of background and experience. It really bothers me that there are women who know or ought to know that they are as good as the men around them, but who won’t apply for fear of being thought to be appointed just because they are a woman.”
“We early women believed that we were as good as the men and would certainly not be put off in this way. I may well have been appointed because the powers that be realised the need for a woman.”
“I am completely unembarrassed about that, because they were right, and I hope that I have justified their confidence in me. I don’t think that all the talk about the best women being deterred is a plot to put them off, but I am sure that they should not be deterred by talk such as this. We owe it to our sex, but also to the future of the law and the legal system, to step up to the plate.”
Lady Hale is currently serving as the Deputy President of the Supreme Court. In 2004, she was welcomed into the House of Lords as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, becoming the first woman to be appointed into this position. She is also the most senior female judge in British history.