Can I make 2 slightly provocative points. Firstly what is wrong with tokenism? After all with its requirement for geographical diversity on the Court, the law insists upon it. When Patrick Hodge was appointed in 2013 he was not required to demonstrate that he was the best jurist in the UK, he simply needed to prevail over any members of the Court of Session who fancied relocating to London. I would be astonished if there was more than one or two other applicants! In short he was a Scottish token! I don’t apprehend that his appointment adversely affected the quality of the Court. Indeed the opposite could be argued forcefully.

In Australia there is clearly now a convention that at least 3 of 7 justices should be women and in Canada the understanding was 4 out of 9 should be. Admittedly the recent appointment of Justice Jamal reduced that to 3 but he advanced diversity in another respect. The reputation of those Courts has not been reduced by such an approach. I accept that we don’t know who applied this time but on any view the fact that we have only one woman out of 12 Justices is not a good look.

Secondly, why does the Court still need 12 justices? Its docket is slowly vanishing. It heard only 48 cases last year [discounting the 2 Crossland contempt “appeals”] and this year to date, a miserly 21 cases. Additionally under Lord Reed’s presidency the number of enlarged panels has fallen off a cliff. There were 15 in 2016 [22% of the total] but only 2 last year and 1 thus far this year.

Will our new justices have enough to do? Perhaps given their advanced years they are to job share!!

Expand full comment

As to retirement ages, I have always said name me the judge in question- at whatever level- and I shall give my view on her/his carrying over.

Now, some quite senior judges for example-shockingly- denounced Baroness Hale’s elevation because as they claimed her judicial career track had been otherwise than the norm with its associated comfort blanket for those anticipating expecting and predicting a non- interventionist stance on the part of the Supreme Court she had then led with the robust and unanimous ruling declaring Johnson’s self serving “prorogation” as null and void.

If mandatory continuing retirement at seventy had indeed led quickly enough to an enrichment and diversity in senior judicial posts then I would have on balance continued to support that approach. Indeed a fine solicitor judge and close friend of mine John Warner- effectively the Recorder of Wolverhampton - had wished to stay on and everyone of good will (that is, excluding the pro- bar contingent whatever else) would have supported his continuing in office. In stark contrast another prospect who had had his nose put out of joint by John’s appointment in preference for him insisted that the bar were the specialist branch of the profession with Solicitors as mere irritating dabblers.

Actually with a number of other higher court advocates I in all immodesty conducted serious jury trials in as examples rape cases, in three of which I secured acquittals, almost certainly factually the right verdicts and most decidedly on the evidence.

Whilst conducting those cases I hardly slept at all since the implications and consequences for my clients and for justice were so immense.

Did I “lose” cases? Of course. Did I make a mess of some cases? Equally, of course. But then so did many of in particular my prosecuting opponents and codefenders both of the bar, with me sometimes ever so courteously having to put them right. That had been largely because unlike some of them whose believe seemed to be that they were too clever to have to exert themselves I used to spend VAST TRACTS of time on preparation since uncertain of my own skills and legal knowledge. When legal issues should crop up out of the blue I was generally so petrified with fear as to be almost unable to totter to my feet even though I often at least on points “won” those arguments.

I had learnt my trade in front of robust Magistrates of for example a Saturday morning Court where with a client I had met perhaps met only five minutes before then first sentence or two at most that I uttered won or lost the day.

As to appearances before Stipendiary Magistrates later of course called District Judges I would be given even less latitude and so speed and directness had to buttress to the extreme anyclegsl or factual arguments being advanced.

Those in an important sense were indeed the days! Thanks

Expand full comment

I’m sure you’re right when you say that the delay is not down to the Palace. The Royal Warrant for my appointment to the very junior judicial post of District Judge (Magistrates’ Courts) is dated 14 February 2004, just a few days after the death of Princess Margaret, when the Palace was in formal mourning and the Queen could have been forgiven for neglecting her duties in that period.

But who is the individual notorious for delay in signing off on appointments? Do tell....

Expand full comment