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Last Updated: Friday, 24 October, 2003, 06:51 GMT 07:51 UK
First female Law Lord appointed
Scales of justice
Lady Hale will become the first female Law Lord
The first female Law Lord has been appointed by the government.

Senior appeal judge Lady Justice Hale has been made a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, Downing Street said on Friday.

Dame Brenda Hale, 58, who has been a Lady Justice of Appeal since 1999, will become one of 12 Law Lords.

Although members of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords - the highest court in the land - are known as Law Lords, the new member will be known as Lady Hale, a spokesman for the Department of Constitutional Affairs said.

Lady Hale became a QC in 1989 and served as a recorder or part-time judge from 1989 to 1994, when she was appointed a judge of the Family Division.

Lady Hale will take up the 175,055-a-year post in January.

Prior to the promotion of Lady Hale, the most senior female judge in England and Wales was Dame Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, president of the High Court's Family Division.

Scotland has had a female Law Lord since 1996, when Lady Hazel Cosgrove was appointed to the Supreme Court in Edinburgh.


Lady Hale has been outspoken about sexism in the judiciary.

In an interview published last month, she said she had been "deeply affronted" by the way judges' official lodgings are run like gentlemen's clubs, where ladies are expected to retire after dinner to leave the men to talk.

On at least one occasion, she said, she had refused to leave the dining room.

In 2001, Lady Hale launched an attack on the wearing of legal wigs, saying they "deny women their femininity" and "humanise all of us into men".

In a lecture to the Reform Club, she said the traditional horsehair wigs worn by judges and barristers are "intrinsically male and masculine".

Appointment welcomed

Director of the equality campaign group the Fawcett Society, Dr Katherine Rake, said: "The appointment of the first woman to the House of Lords is long overdue and Brenda Hale will be an excellent and extremely incisive Law Lord.

"This is a particularly welcome appointment at a time when the system for selecting judges is being criticised for producing an overwhelmingly white, male judiciary."

She added that the UK lags behind other countries in appointing women as senior judges.

Canada appointed its first woman to the highest court over 20 years ago, while the US, Australia and New Zealand all have women judges in their highest courts .

"Even with this appointment the House of Lords remains extremely unrepresentative: only one in twelve of our top judges are female and there are no black or minority ethnic judges," Dr Rake said.

"We look forward to the appointment of more high calibre women and black or minority ethnic Law Lords in the immediate future to ensure that the House of Lords is a legitimate body in our modern society."

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