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Lady Rose of Colmworth becomes the newest addition to the UK Supreme Court.

By Polina Suchkova

Lady Rose was sworn into the Supreme Court on April 19th 2021, making her the newest member of the panel of twelve judges.[1] She will join Lady Arden as the second woman currently sitting, following the retirement of Lady Black in January.[2][3]

Lady Rose's appointment has resulted in a 100% increase in the number of female judges on the Supreme Court– from one to two on a panel of twelve. Though I use the statistic jokingly, it does call to attention the genuine lack of diversity in the Supreme Court and serves as a reminder that we should not let the appointment of another female judge distract us. The most gender diversity there has ever been was when Lady Arden, Lady Hale and Lady Black all sat in 2018.[4] Two out of the twelve judges being female is something, but considering that 47% of tribunal judges and 32% of court judges are female, two becomes a much less impressive figure.[5] That being said, female representation has been consistently increasing recently, although it remains lower in senior court appointments.[6]

I believe the continuing concerns about the lack of diversity in the Supreme Court are completely justified.[7] As objective as we ask our judges to be, in my view, our experiences and identity mean that complete objectivity is impossible and unachievable. Therefore, diversity of not only gender, but also race and experience, are necessary to ensure the ‘objective’ white male perspective is counterbalanced. We commend having two women on the panel, but let us not forget that the judges are all heterosexual, cis, white, and Oxbridge educated (bar Lord Stephens who went to Manchester).[8]

The reply often given to this centres around the number of legal professionals of black, Asian or other minority ethnic backgrounds in the system. Indeed, only 12% of tribunal judges and 8% of lower court judges are from these backgrounds.[9] Only 4% of senior judges appointed to the High Court are from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds.[10] The true extent of racism and racial bias was highlighted earlier this year when barrister Alexandra Wilson spoke out about being mistaken for the defendant three times in one morning at the same magistrate’s court.[11]

What I hope to have emphasised in this article is that the lack of diversity is still clearly apparent despite the new appointment, and there is still much to be done to address it. Nevertheless, I look forward to seeing what Lady Rose does.

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] Ibid. [7] [8] [9] [10] Ibid. [11]


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