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In this week’s blog, the incoming Supreme Court President, Lady Hale has caught our attention following her comments on diversity in the judiciary.

Lady Hale, who replaces Lord Neuberger as Supreme Court President (being the first female appointment to the role) commented to a Belfast audience that the traditional solicitor / barrister divide in the profession was partly to blame for lack of females in the judiciary.

Followers of our blog will be aware that we’ve previously highlighted Lady Hale’s role in challenging the diversity of the judiciary, not only from a gender perspective but also looking at the wider social context, background and experience of candidates.

To put some of Lady Hale’s comments in context, we thought we’d take a look at how she’s risen to the upper echelons of legal commentary, policy making and her recent appointment as the first female President of the Supreme Court (due to be sworn in on 2 October).

Lady Hale first made history when she became the first women and youngest person to be appointed to the Law Commission in 1984. Next, when she was appointed Queen’s Counsel in 1994, as she was the first judge to come from a career in academia, as opposed to a practising barrister. She made the headlines in 2004 when she was also the first woman to be appointed to the Supreme Court, becoming Baroness Hale of Richmond.

Lady Hale’s impact on family law cannot be understated, importantly she:

– reformed a significant body of law relating to children to bring about the Children Act 1989 as part of her 9 years working with the Law Commission (1984-1993);

– was influential in increasing protection for victims of domestic violence, driving further legislative reforms and shaping the interpretation of ‘domestic abuse’ extending beyond violence;

– highlighted the thorny issues involved in cohabitee disputes on relationship breakdown during her time in the Supreme Court deciding the case of Stack v. Dowden [2007];

– advocates women’s rights, regularly criticising the Supreme Court’s lack of diversity; and

– ruled in the recent appeal case of Walker v. Innospec [2017] relating to discrimination in pension rights for same sex couples – this ground breaking decision means all married couples (or civil partnerships) regardless of sexual orientation have the same pension rights in the event of their spouse’s death.

Lady Hale has been a huge influence in changing attitudes and moving family law on with the times. We at Cambridge Family Law Practice are big fans of her work. If you would like to discuss any aspect of family law with us please do call Simon, Adam, Tricia, Sue, or Gail on 01223 443333.