UK supreme court gets second female judge as Lady Justice Rose joins

Lady Justice Rose has joined the supreme court, doubling the number of female justices in the UK’s highest court in an appointment that has failed to quell concerns about lack of diversity.

Rose, educated at both Oxford and Cambridge, is a rare member of the senior judiciary whose previous career was mainly in the government legal service.

She has been appointed, after recommendation by an independent selection commission, to replace Lady Black, who retired in January.

Rose will join Lady Arden on the supreme court bench as the only women. Arden is due to step down next year, raising the prospect of Rose being the only woman in the all-white court. At the beginning of last year, before her retirement, the court’s president was Lady Hale, one of three women who sat alongside nine male justices.

Stephanie Needleman, a senior lawyer at the legal reform organisation Justice, said: “As noted in our recent update report on the state of judicial diversity, the progress made in respect of the gender diversity of our judiciary is both small and fragile and, particularly at senior levels, the risk of regression is high. Whilst we are pleased to see another woman appointed to the supreme court, it remains over 80% male. We are also equally concerned about the continued absence of any racial diversity on the court.”

Justice’s recommendations in its report, published in January, included prioritising diversity among the judicial leadership, increasing senior appointments from the “more diverse” tribunals or district judges and tackling affinity bias.

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Hale was outspoken throughout her career about sexism in the judiciary and lack of diversity more broadly. Rose has previously named her hero as Anne Jemima Clough, who helped found Newnham College for women (where Rose studied), in 1871, at Cambridge, at a time when women were not allowed to attend the university.

Last year, the judiciary published an “inclusion strategy” in which the lord chief justice of England and Wales, Lord Burnett of Maldon, said a more diverse judiciary would “capture talent that is currently lost to us and help cement the confidence of the public that the judiciary broadly reflects society”.

The proportion of female court judges as of 1 April was 32%, up from 24% in 2014. However, the proportion in more senior posts (high court and above) on 1 April was 26%. The proportion of black, Asian and minority ethnic judges was 8% – 4% in senior posts – compared with 6% in 2014.

Rose, whose first job was as a Saturday sales assistant in Marks and Spencer, has said she aspired to be an actor up until the age of 13 before setting her heart on becoming a barrister.

She was called to the bar in 1984 but left private practice in 1995 to join the government legal service as a legal adviser on financial services at the Treasury, where she remained until 2001. She then worked for the Ministry of Defence as director of operational and international humanitarian Law. From 2005 to 2008 she was seconded to the office of counsel to the speaker of the House of Commons.

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Rose’s first judicial role came in 2006, when she was appointed as a fee-paid chairman of the competition appeal tribunal. She was appointed to further tribunal posts and became a recorder in the criminal jurisdiction, south eastern circuit in 2010. In May 2013, Rose was sworn in as a high court judge in the chancery division. She was president of the upper tribunal (tax and chancery chamber) between 2015 and 2018 before being appointed to the court of appeal in January 2019.

She recited the judicial oath in the presence of Lord Reed, the president of the supreme court, and the court’s other judges, on Monday morning. She becomes Lady Rose of Colmworth.

On announcement of Rose’s appointment last month, Reed said: “Having spent a substantial part of her career working in government and Parliament, LJ Rose will add significantly to the diversity of experience on the court. Her outstanding legal ability and breadth of experience will be invaluable in maintaining the high quality of our judgments and our reputation as an international centre of legal excellence.”



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