The UK’s highest court is to have a female majority hear a case for the first time in 600 years.
Almost one hundred years after a law was passed allowing women to practice as barristers, three women and two men will decide a case in the highest court in the country.
Three of the five judges who are set to hear a Supreme Court case on October 3 about a 16-year-old with Asperger’s Syndrome and learning difficulties are female.
Lady Hale, the court’s first female president, has previously spoken out about the need for more women at the top of the judiciary.
Earlier this year she said women were “seriously underrepresented” among senior judges, warning that women were forced to move into the public sector because of the difficulty of combining high-flying legal jobs with family and caring responsibilities.
One campaigner called the case “a great inspiration for younger barristers”, and said “women have really arrived”.
Dana Denis-Smith, founder of the First 100 Years, a project which highlights women’s achievements in the legal sector, said Lady Hale had been instrumental in ensuring more women were appointed to the top court.
“She’s really making a difference. You have a woman that takes other women with her. That’s the wonderful legacy of Baroness Hale,” she said. “It’s a really wonderful thing to see and an example for other women in a leadership position, that they can effect change.”
Lady Justice Arden, who currently sits on the Court of Appeal, is one of two judges who will join the Supreme Court at the start of next month.
The Supreme Court, which was established in October 2009, and its predecessor, the House of Lords, have never had a female majority on any one case before.
The court currently has 10 justices. Lord Mance, the former deputy president of the court, retired in June this year, and Lord Hughes retired last month. A third justice, Lord Sumption, is due to retire in December.
Lady Justice Arden and Lord Justice Kitchin have been appointed as their replacements, as well as Lord Justice Sales, who will join the court in January.
All three women on the court, Lady Hale, Lady Black, and Lady Arden, will preside in Re D, which involves an application by Birmingham City Council to allow them to keep the boy in residential care with his parents’ permission.
The newest female judge, Lady Justice Arden, is an expert in law reform and international law who has organised exchanges between the senior judiciary of the UK and the judiciaries of courts abroad.