Ne manquez pas : Britain’s most senior judge to be called Lady Chief Justice

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Britain’s most senior judge is to be known by the title of “Lady Chief Justice” for the first time in more than 750 years.

Dame Sue Carr, 58, a Court of Appeal judge, will officially take up the post as head of the judiciary in England and Wales on Monday, Oct 2.

She will succeed Lord Burnett of Maldon to become the first woman to oversee the judicial system since the post of Lord Chief Justice was created 755 years ago.

Alex Chalk, the Justice Secretary, agreed that she could decide on her own title from the choices of Lady Chief Justice, Lord Chief Justice or Chief Justice, a gender-neutral term used in America, Ireland and New Zealand.

Last night it was confirmed that Dame Sue had chosen Lady Chief Justice and will be sworn in as such in a ceremony in court four at the Royal Courts of Justice at 9am next Monday.

It will also mark a double first. The swearing in ceremony will be available to the public to view via a live stream for the first time in history.

In order to confirm her as Lady Chief Justice, Mr Chalk will have to issue a statutory instrument to change the judicial title. The post, which dates back to 1268, is written into law as Lord Chief Justice under section 64 of the 2003 Courts Act.

After the announcement of Dame Sue’s appointment in the summer, Mr Chalk indicated he would follow her lead. “I’ll probably talk to her and see what she says about it. I think, ultimately, it’s got to be a title that she is comfortable with. And, within reason, I think I’ll probably be led by what she has to say,” he said.

Dame Sue was one of only two candidates on the shortlist for the post, beating Dame Victoria Sharp, the first female president of the King’s Bench Division and brother of Richard Sharp, the former BBC chairman.

Career at the Bar

As a court of appeal judge for three years, Dame Sue has been known as Lady Justice Carr. She was appointed a High Court judge 10 years ago after four years as a recorder in 2009. During her career at the Bar, she held a series of leadership roles including complaints commissioner to the international criminal court in the Hague.

She was called to the Bar in 1987, specialising in commercial professional liability, insurance and fraud litigation and arbitration. In 2012 she was named Professional Negligence Silk of the Year by Chambers & Partners.

A mother-of-three, she was educated at Wycombe Abbey School, Buckinghamshire, and read law at Trinity College, Cambridge. Interviewed for the school website, she gave her views on feminism and pursuing a career.

“To me, feminism is having that true freedom of choice. Sometimes, the burden of potential is a heavy one and it is all too easy to go down a certain career path because it seems to be what is wanted of you,” she said.

“So perhaps you could be Prime Minister. But if actually you really want to be a painter or teach riding and your circumstances permit it, then that is what you should do.”

She will give a speech next Monday, where she could give some clues on her approach to the top job. She faces a daunting task to clear the backlogs and delays in cases that mushroomed during Covid, as well as the perennial funding battles over maintaining and repairing the fabric of the courts.

The courts are also undergoing radical change with greater use of technology, such as pre-recorded video evidence and remote trials, the introduction of cameras to film court cases and a drive toward greater transparency for the public to see justice done.

As Lady Chief Justice, she can also expect a peerage, although she will not be able to take part in House of Lords proceedings while she remains a serving judge.


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