Hibernian Law Medals 2022: Remarks by The Rt Hon. the Baroness Hale of Richmond

Pagespp 180 - 182
Published date12 July 2022
Date12 July 2022
Remarks by
ank you so much to the Hibernian Law Journal for bestowing this medal upon
me; to Ms Justice Mary Irvine for presiding over this event and for picking out one
of my dissents for special mention, showing that today’s dissent is tomorrow’s law;
and to Conor White for all the kind and attering things he has said about me. It is
humbling indeed to be joining the company of those whom you have honoured in
this way – the doyenne of women Chief Justices in the common law world, Beverley
McLachlin; your very own woman Chief Justice, Susan Denham; my predecessor
as President of the UK Supreme Court, David Neuberger; the former President
of Ireland, Mary McAleese; my good friend, former Supreme Court Justice and
Chair of your Law Reform Commission, Catherine McGuinness; and now another
former President of Ireland and great campaigner for justice, Mary Robinson.
What a list! ough David Neuberger must be feeling a little outnumbered … But
perhaps it is a good thing that he now knows what it has felt like for women like me
for most of our lives.
I went to a small girls’ high school in North Yorkshire, where the girls were
outnumbered more than two to one by the boys in the grammar school down
the road. at was unfairness number one in my life. I went on to Cambridge,
where the young women students were outnumbered around nine to one by the
young men students – another injustice of course, although it did have its distinct
advantages! I became a barrister in Manchester at a time when less than 6.0% of
practising barristers were women. I was the rst and only woman among ve Law
Commissioners. I was one of only six women amongst more than 100 men on the
High Court bench, only the second among the 35 or so Court of Appeal Judges,
and the rst and sadly only woman Lord of Appeal in Ordinary. It took more than
13 years for them to nd another woman to join me on the top court in the United
Kingdom. What was I doing wrong, I wondered? You may have heard Madeleine
Albright’s expression that there is a special place in hell for women who do not help
other women and I did begin to wonder whether I might be going to that special
place. But thankfully, Lady Black saved me.
But the experience of being such a rare beast taught me a few lessons. e rst
was to carry on regardless – of the casual sexism there was in the early days, of
the consciousness of being dierent from my colleagues in more ways than one,
of the burdens of carrying the torch for women in the justice system. e second
was that we can be lucky to be in the right place at the right time – the time when
the powers-that-be realise that they need more women about the place and are on
* Lady Hale is a former President of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, having retired in
January 2020.

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