“Natural History Museum to relocate to the Supreme Court ?” Lord Sumption and the hundreds of years march to equality.

This week saw the widely publicised observations of Lord Sumption ,one of our 11 white male judges of 12 at the UK’s Supreme Court, on achieving gender equality in the Supreme Court. In case you missed it you can read his interview with the Evening Standard here,


You can also read the excellent response by the far smarter and obvious Supreme Court material,[1] Karon Monaghan QC here,


As she observes, positive discrimination for a certain white male elite has worked wondrously for many years.

Please note Supreme Court press office that albeit my lifestyle choice of having to work to feed my children in a profession I fought quite hard to enter into I have actually managed to read his comments in full. In case you missed it – here is my rundown of his interview with the ‘ES’[2].

“It has to happen naturally. It will happen naturally. But in the history of a society like ours, 50 years is a very short time.”

50 years is a very short time if you are a dinosaur but for those who have suffered injustice and for those who recognise the justice deficit in a judiciary that does not reflect the society it serves 50 years is too late and a very long time.

The 64-year-old told the Evening Standard that part of the reason women were under-represented as judges was the “appalling” working conditions and long hours, which he said female barristers were less likely to put up with.

Er maybe Its not so much that they aren’t willing to put up with them but more like they can’t. Apparently its frowned upon if they let their children under the age of five walk home on their own. All sorts of things can be done to ensure that women are able to participate equally in public and political life. Lord Sumption should remind himself of Article 25 of that convention we are a party to, The International Convention on Civil and Political Rights[3].  Further that’s just not correct. There are many able senior women putting up with all sorts of things who could be leap frogged to the Supreme Court – just like Lord Sumption himself was.

“These things simply can’t be transformed overnight, not without appalling consequence in other directions.”

I thought there had been quite a few studies on perhaps the appalling consequences of a judiciary that does not reflect the society it serves[4]. And those appalling consequences for example of young black boys receiving longer sentences and more likely to go into custody.  I am also so appalled by the total lack of progress toward equality in our profession that maybe me and others will feel like quitting.

British justice was “a terribly delicate organism”, Sumption said. “We have got to be very careful not to do things at a speed which will make male candidates feel that the cards are stacked against them.

This might have a grain of truth to it. I have met some white male public school boys and some of them are terribly delicate organisms.

I think its time for the dinosaurs to move out not in to the Supreme Court.

Rebekah Wilson


Garden Court Chambers

Views expressed – mine alone

[1] In my view – obviously

[2] link provided above

[3] http://www.ohchr.org/en/professionalinterest/pages/ccpr.as

[4] http://www.theguardian.com/law/2011/nov/25/ethnic-variations-jail-sentences-study

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