Tag Archives: diversity

The Four Retired Judges Sketch

With profuse apologies to Monty Python for this shameless hijacking of the Four Yorkshiremen Sketch. Please note that the Judges in this sketch are not from any particular county. I should also apologise to the many completely enlightened members of the modern Judiciary and practitioners at the senior end of both professions. Let us not slip back to old ways. The views expressed in this are not my views, nor are they meant to represent the views of any living person. This is one of my hamfisted attempts at satire, designed to show why the Bar and the Judiciary should not be complacent about diversity. If you find that the views expressed correspond with your own or one of the characters reminds you of yourself then that is entirely a coincidence and I apologise. That apology would not be to you but on your behalf…..

Four Judges sit together at the end of a convivial evening in the Old Bailey, a retirement home for the Judiciary in Eastbourne. Heavy crystal glasses are gripped in ageing hands. 

Judge This QC: Ahhh….very passable, this, very passable.

Judge That: Nothing like a good glass of Chateau de Chassilier wine, hey Gideon?

Judge Them: You’re right there Jocelyn.

Judge Yourself QC: Who would have thought thirty years ago we’d all be sitting here drinking Chateau de Chassillier wine, all of us former “Top Judges”……

Judge This QC: Aye, in them days it were only our fathers who were the Judges.

Judge That: Not top Judges mind…..

Judge Them: No, no. Not top Judges, remember that Maximillian’s father was only a District Registrar….

Judge Yourself QC: That’s right Gideon, but it’s never held me back, never held me back. And of course so unlike your father who was, I believe, described by the News of the World as a “Top Judge”

Judge This QC: Aye “Top Judge in Drink Drive and GoGo Dancer” scandal…..

Judge That:  As I recall it “Top Judge in Russian Spy GoGo Dancer” scandal…..

Judge Them: Yes, yes. And as you all know, he was cleared by the top man at the Ministry.

Judge Yourself QC: Ah yes, the report by Bernard Howe-Relates.

Judge This QC: Top fellow was Bernard.

Judge That: That’s right Peregrine, dear Bernie was a top fellow and wonderful cricketer, used to play with my father in the Old Garfordians…..

Judge Them: Yes, dear old Bernie, or Uncle Bumblepot as I used to affectionately call my Godfather….

Judge Yourself QC: Now when we started out it was hard to make your way.

Judge This QC: That’s right. Hard to make your way with so much to live up to.

Judge That: Nothing like the pressure to achieve more than your father.

Judge Them: Certainly not when you father was head of chambers….

Judge Yourself QC: And his father before him…..

Judge This QC: As your pupilmaster was always reminding you…..

Judge That: Ah yes, mine always said to me “Jocelyn” he would say “I always knew from our days rooming together at Haserthwicke College that your father was going places”…..

Judge Them: My pupil master constantly reminded me that he only let my father marry his sister because he could tell he was cut out for the job……

Judge Yourself QC:  But it wasn’t just the family pressure….

Judge This QC: No, it certainly was not. On my first day in chambers my father’s clerk pointed out to me that every chap from my college who had joined chambers had taken Silk….

Judge That: Mine said every fellow from my college had taken Silk and gone on the Bench….

Judge Them: The High Court Bench….

Judge Yourself QC: My clerk said everyone from my college and my school was in the Court of Appeal…..

Judge This QC: My Clerk told me you could put together a passable Old Boys Rugger XV from Attorneys-General that had been to my alma mater and reasonable Second XV from their fags who went on to be Solictor-General….

Judge That: On my first day in pupillage the clerk told me that there was a seven man House of Lords giving judgement that day who had all gone to my prep school…..

Judge Them: Now that’s pressure…..

Judge Yourself QC: Oh yes. Tell that to your average boy from a Secondary Modern and he wouldn’t recognise such pressure…..

Judge This QC: And then the slog to get work once you were in.

Judge That: Oh yes, you couldn’t rely on your LinkedIn profile…

Judge Them: Absolutely. Nor could you just sit there and await instructions from solicitors who went to the same college as you.

Judge Yourself QC: Exactly. Chaps from my college didn’t go into trade…..

Judge This QC: Precisely. It was endless hours on the golf course…

Judge That: Yes, and it didn’t stop on the course, in the Clubhouse too.

Judge Them: Half a pale ale with the Senior Partner of a firm….

Judge Yourself QC: Now those were the hard yards the youngsters of today don’t see.

Judge This QC: That’s why you did not see many lady Judges of our vintage….

Judge That: They couldn’t be in the clubhouse and in the kitchen making supper.

Judge Them: And those hips. The female hips are not conducive to a good golf swing….

Judge Yourself QC: …..not conducive……

Judge This QC: …..and anyway, lasses taking up pupillage was a waste of thirty Guineas…..

Judge That: A real waste.

Judge Them: Why waste thirty guineas on a pupillage when you were only going to pop off and have some babies within a few years?

Judge Yourself QC: Much better to spend it on a new dress or some pretty shoes!

Judge This QC: Wise words, Peregrine, wise words.

Judge That: And the Courtroom and the Robing Rooms, well, they are like the trenches, no place for a lady.

 Judge Them: No, I wouldn’t want a daughter of mine to see or hear the things that go on.

 Judge Yourself QC: In that situation men can only cope by being more of a man…

 Judge This QC: Aye, it’s the heat of the battle……

Judge That: …..the eye of the storm….

Judge Them: ……no place for shrinking violets……

Judge Yourself QC: …….or sensitive souls.

Judge This QC: If the occasional rum thing gets said, it’s a coping mechanism…

 Judge That: …..gallows humour…..

Judge Them: Nothing more than letting off steam…..

Judge Yourself QC: Like the Rugger changing room, no place for the fairer sex.

Judge This QC: Absolutely, if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen…..

Judge That: …..popping back to the kitchen…..

Judge Them:
…..the real kitchen rather than the metaphorical kitchen…..

Judge Yourself QC: ….. and leave the job to the right sort.

Judge This QC: Try telling that to the young people of today and they will not listen, they will not listen. It’s all “don’t be so all un-PC”…..

Judge That: It’s not un-PC if it’s true…..

 Judge Them: Look at the Lord Chancellor, no longer needs to be a lawyer but has always been a man.

 Judge Yourself QC: And a man that went to the right sort of university at that….shows what’s important, shows what’s important.

 All: Yes, yes.

Fifty Years From Now……

This month my nephew commences his GDL. We are not a family with a history of lawyers. There is me, my sister-in-law and our joint nephew. That is it. 

In fact we are not a family with a history of university attendance. My generation in the family were the first to go to University. My nephews and nieces have all gone to university. What a giant leap forward in one generation. 

And now the Bar will shrink back into the Dark Ages. In a week when the Lord Chief Justice is, I respectfully suggest, somewhat complacently suggesting that diversity in the Judiciary will work itself out in fifty years time, the reality is that the Bar is rapidly undoing all the gains made in recent times. Think not just of the gender of the upper echelons of the Judiciary fifty years from now. Think of their diversity, their ethnicity, their cultural background, their educational background. I foresee white, privately educated and, more than likely, still male. 

Why do I say this? My nephew and I are very similar. We went to the same (comprehensive) school. Our (proud) parents had not attended university themselves. Both of us have paid our own way, in conjunction with our parents, albeit his level of debt dwarves mine. 

I am not suggesting either of us were ever going to be the Lord Chief Justice. In my case I can positively rule it out. However the upper echelons of the Judiciary tend to be drawn from the Bar. It is the Bar that tends to allow people to concentrate on being lawyers rather than managers, business leaders and employers (please, solicitors, do not all shout at me at once, I know this is a generalisation but a blog requires some shorthand sweeping statements and, for the time being, the Supreme Court is likely to be drawn from the Bar).

So why am I ruling out my nephew? It is because I love him and want to see the best for him. So I have advised him against going near crime and have advised him against a career at the Bar, despite the fact that this is what he wants to do. This is not the X-Factor. Being passionate about it and “really, really wanting it” whilst going on “an incredible journey” does not pay the Student Loan and does not alter the diminishing prospects at the Bar. Not when the incredible journey saddles you with £30,000 more of debt, no pupillage and a largely meaningless post-graduate qualification. 

The culmination of various Government policies means that anyone who gives realistic advice in the best interests of an aspirant lawyer will tell them not to pursue a career in crime, not to pursue a career in public funded work and that their greater chances of a career lie with a training contract rather than a pupillage. Even the brilliant and the dedicated, and the brilliantly dedicated, need a dose of reality. And they are smart enough to make the right choice. And the right choice is no longer the Bar. And it is no longer crime. 

I have read that people predict that the Two Tier Contract system sees the death of the Criminal Bar within six months. That may be a tad pessimistic. The true prognosis, however, is that the Bar is already stricken by a terrible malaise. It may not finish us off tomorrow but it will end the profession as we know it now. An open and diverse profession. A profession to aspire to. A profession with a training regime designed in the pursuit of excellence in our traditional strengths. 

The Bar will struggle to recruit the brightest and the best, unless they happen to be wealthy. The Bar will struggle to recruit from a diverse social and cultural background. The Criminal Bar (often a way in for those less privileged) will struggle to recruit at all. Meanwhile we will struggle to retain those already practising. If you do not accept the link between retention levels and remuneration levels just take a look at what is happening with junior doctors

And that may be where Sumption may have got something right. Thirty years ago the problem was in male dominated recruitment. In more recent times retention levels have been lower for women than for men. Where he is wrong is in his assessment that this represents a lifestyle choice by females, a rejection of lifestyle in some way more suitable to men. For many it represents an economic necessity that they do not remain within the profession. 

Where Sumption is even more out of step is in concentrating his public pronouncement on an attack on gender positive recruitment. He needs to look further down the food chain. He needs to step into the limelight to highlight the damaging impact of Government policy on the diversity of the pool of available candidates for his job fifty years from now. Now that would be a fine example of an independent judiciary.