Baroness Hale: The unique perspective of women judges on the law

From the Bar Law Reform Lecture, at the Inner Temple, London, delivered by the first woman law lord

Share

I was gratified but astonished by the delight with which my appointment was greeted by women lawyers from all branches of the profession and from all around the common-law world. This was not just because of the glass-ceiling breakthrough, the model which others might follow, or the dent in the allegedly homogenous mass of the pale male judiciary. There was a sense that the judicial product might be subtly changed or even improved by having a woman among the law lords.

I was gratified but astonished by the delight with which my appointment was greeted by women lawyers from all branches of the profession and from all around the common-law world. This was not just because of the glass-ceiling breakthrough, the model which others might follow, or the dent in the allegedly homogenous mass of the pale male judiciary. There was a sense that the judicial product might be subtly changed or even improved by having a woman among the law lords.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin [of the Supreme Court of Canada] has put it this way: "The ... most important reason why I believe we need women on our benches is because we need the perspectives that women can bring to judging." This is because: "...jurists are human beings, and, as such, are informed and influenced by their backgrounds, communities, and experiences. For cultural, biological, social and historic reasons, women do have different experiences than men."

One man's common sense is another woman's hopeless idiocy. No doubt once upon a time it was thought common sense that a girl of 13 who became pregnant, and had thus by definition been the victim of unlawful sexual intercourse, would be so likely to lie about the perpetrator that the only safe course was to insist that any prosecution was brought before any pregnancy had become apparent. But that was a moral or political choice rather than a common sense one.

Common sense comes in, it seems to me, at the point when one is seeking to provide practical, workable solutions to practical problems, like which school a child should attend or when a child should see her father, rather than at the point when one is trying to make the law. Legal principle and policy arguments are what come in then.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Solutions Architect - Permanent - London - £70k DOE

£60000 - £70000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

General Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: Great opportunities for Cover...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The bustling Accident & Emergency ward at Milton Keynes Hospital  

The NHS needs the courage to adapt and survive

Nigel Edwards
 

Letter from the Sub-Editor: Canada is seen as a peaceful nation, but violent crime isn’t as rare as you might think

Jeffrey Simpson
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?