Baroness Hale is to become the first female president of the UK’s Supreme Court, Downing Street has said.
In a statement, Number 10 said the 72-year-old would take up the position following the retirement of Lord Neuberger in September.
A family law expert, Lady Hale has served as Lord Neuberger’s deputy since 2013.
The Bar Council said her appointment will “serve as an encouragement to all” for greater diversity in law.
Yorkshire-born Lady Hale has previously criticised the judicial appointments system for selecting from a pool of predominantly white men from similar economic and academic backgrounds.
Andrew Langdon QC, the chairman of the Bar, said: ”It is well known that Baroness Hale is a most distinguished jurist and has long been at the forefront in the task of arguing for a properly diverse judiciary.
“Her appointment will serve as an encouragement to all in showing how important this is.”
Lady Hale will be officially sworn in as president on October 2, along with three new justices – including a second female judge, Lady Justice Black.
‘Principled and respected’
Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for equality, said she was delighted by the appointment.
She added: “Not only because she is a woman but because her judgements often reflect a true understanding of women’s lives and the violence and discrimination they experience.
“But I’ll look forward to the day when we will no longer be commenting on women firsts at all.”
Who is the first lady of the law?
- Baroness Hale of Richmond began her career teaching law at the University of Manchester, becoming Professor of Law in 1986.
- In 1984, she became the first woman to be appointed to the Law Commission – the statutory body which promotes the reform of the law.
- She spent 10 years redefining the face of family law, and was instrumental in legislation such as the Children Act of 1989.
- She was the founding editor of the Journal of Social Welfare and Family Law, and authored a pioneering case book on the family, law and society.
- Lady Hale was made QC in 1989, and a High Court judge in 1994. She went on to become the UK’s first woman Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in January 2004, and then the first woman Justice of the Supreme Court in 2009 – and the first family lawyer to fill the post.
- She once said: “I have had such an unusual career, my colleagues don’t compare themselves to me in the way that they otherwise might.”
Adam Wagner, a barrister specialising in public law and human rights, tweeted of the news: “Let’s forget the gender thing for a sec: Brenda Hale is a great judge. She writes clearly, is principled, is respected by other judges.”
He added: “Hale came from a different background to most other judges. She wasn’t a barrister – [she] was an academic. This is a good thing.
“Hale is passionate about rights issues – she has given important judgements on mental disabilities, rights of children, women’s rights”.
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