A piece by Nicholas Hellen in the latest Sunday Times. Baroness Hake is the least qualified judge in the Supreme Court, and its president. She claims having female judges make for a better court, without ever explaining how. It’s self-serving twaddle.
The president of the Supreme Court has said the presence of women judges makes for better decisions in court because of their different experiences.
Baroness Hale of Richmond, the court’s first female president, said she knew her intervention was controversial and asked: “Do women make different decisions from men? To which the answer is, having women on the court improves the quality of decision making.
“It improves the quality of debate, it makes certain things much more difficult to say and do, counters subconscious biases, we all have them . . . and just from time to time, having a woman’s voice on a decision makes a difference.”
Hale, who spoke to The New Zealand Herald at the Women in Law Summit in Auckland, went on to say: “Because however egalitarian society, however much people respect one another, women do lead slightly different lives from men and that perspective in experience is a valuable one to have around decision-making generally.”
She spoke ahead of the swearing-in of Lady Justice Arden to the Supreme Court next Monday, when there will be three female and nine male judges. Two days later, for the first time in its 600 years, the UK’s highest court will have a female majority to hear a case. Three of the five judges will be women for a hearing about a 16-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome and learning difficulties.
In a previous interview in November, Hale gave a more cautious reply when questioned about the impact of women judges.
She said: “Does that make for better judging as opposed to a better judiciary? That is very hard to answer. There are different perspectives because, like it or not, women lead different lives from men. We don’t have any choice in the matter and that perspective coming from the life that we lead is just as valid and just as important in shaping the law and doing judging as the men’s perspective.”
Asked what qualities she brought to a case she said that while male justices would often consider children’s cases from the point of view of the cost of bringing up a child, Hale said: “I would look at it from the point of view of lifetime caring responsibilities, 24/7, that come from having a child.”
Her views were give a cautious welcome by Sir Paul Coleridge, 69, a retired senior High Court judge in the family division. He said: “Overall, I would say she is right about the decision-making, it does bring a different perspective and that is extremely helpful and healthy.”
However, he disagreed with her on the issue of subconscious bias. “When she started, certainly in my early days, women did suffer from genuine bias. Some judges, particularly the older judges were noticeably ruder to women barristers than to men, but that is history.
“I have never felt constrained to say what I want to say because there is a woman sitting in the room. I like to think I wouldn’t say it anyway. From 1990 onwards all the old-fashioned stuff has evaporated just as it has gone in the rest of life.”
Hale, who is a self-described “soft feminist”, also spoke last week about the need for a shift in employers’ views on pregnancy. “Do employers automatically think that a woman who takes any time off at all for their family is less committed to the job or do they realise she’s probably more committed?” [J4MB emphasis. Nonsense on stilts. A woman who takes time off for her family is “probably” MORE committed than one who doesn’t?]
A Supreme Court spokeswoman said: “Lady Hale did not say that female judges make better decisions than their male counterparts. She did comment that having women and men on the court improves the quality of decision making, owing to the wider range of perspectives that they bring. As she has previously stated, both women and men bring different experiences to judging. Women are as different from one another as men, and there is not a single woman’s perspective. Lady Hale’s view that ‘a more diverse bench is a better bench’ is well documented.”
You can subscribe to The Times here.
If everyone who read this gave us just £1.00 – or even better, £1.00 or more, monthly – we could change the world. Click here to make a difference. Thanks.