Author Archives: rebekahmw

“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,

http://www.standard.co.uk/news/uk/rush-for-gender-equality-with-top-judges-could-have-appalling-consequences-for-justice-a2952331.html?_ga=1.131482956.254424909.1443102998.

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

http://ukscblog.com/rushing-for-gender-equality/.

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

Barrister

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

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under News

The case of a Judge, a barrister, some bad weather and the right to that fundamental thing: A FAIR HEARING

Re G (A Child) [2015] EWCA Civ 834

BLACK LJ Court of Appeal, Sullivan, Black LJJ, Sir Colin Rimer, 28 July 2015)

In case you some how managed to miss it Re G is worth a revisit for all of those who know and recognise that need for a fair hearing before a fair tribunal.   And of course for all of those who have seen in action just what unfairness can look like. Be bold , Re G, the idea of justice and those Court of Appeal Judges are there to help.

Re G concerned Private law children proceedings – Contact – Fact-finding hearing – Appeal from findings – Whether the judge had prejudiced the exploration of the evidence. The mother’s appeal was allowed, the findings of fact made by the judge were set aside and the case was remitted for rehearing. In case anyone hadn’t heard already the appeal was against decision of Her Honour Judge Pearl.

LJ Black gave the lead judgement and set out a great deal of the transcript from the hearing below. Here are some of the exchanges to give you the flavour of the hearing.

Note the main players;

Ms Toch – the barrister for the mother in the case who lives in Kent and really had quite a few bad days in court through,it would seem, no fault of her own.

Her Honour Judge Pearl : The Judge who thinks we can afford and are able to travel up to court hearings the night before, and

Mr Cameron the slightly less put upon barrister for the Father.

“Ms Toch tried to explain what the mother’s continuing concerns were but the judge was impatient, intervening to say:

“Yes or no? Answer the question please. I have read the section 47 report. Does your client accept what has just been submitted to me on behalf of the father, that that deal with those issues of the care given by the father to G during contact? Yes or no?”

“[27] The transcript does not convey the degree of pressure put by the judge on Ms Toch at this point in the proceedings.”

“[30] Taking the whole of the exchange about the CAFCASS officer and the lateness together, I also accept the submission that the mother would have felt that the judge was annoyed with her counsel and that this annoyance influenced the judge’s approach to her case and impeded the presentation of it by counsel on her behalf.”

“[38] As I have said, the fairness of a hearing cannot be assessed mathematically or scientifically. Nor is it dependent on a comparison between the way in which the judge has treated the two sides. If one party has been treated in such a way as to disable him or her from advancing his or her case properly, the hearing is not rendered fair by the fact that the other party has been treated equally unfairly. For what it is worth, however, a comparison of the quantum of intervention by the judge on the second day of each counsel’s cross-examination of the other party shows, I think, that Mr Cameron was rather less hampered than Ms Toch.”

Thank you LJ Black and to conclude just because a Judge is being unfair to everyone doesn’t mean the hearing is fair for your client.

n

1 Comment

Filed under News