Lady Hale’s Guest Edit of the Today Programme

Radio 4 continued its tradition of inviting public figures to guest edit the Today Programme between Christmas and New Year in 2019, and the guest editor for 27th December was Lady Hale, the retiring President of the Supreme Court.

Lady Hale was the first woman President of the Supreme Court and I was interested to listen to the programme, given her background in Family Law.

The programme started with an interesting discussion between Lady Hale and a senior woman US judge on the advancement of women lawyers in both jurisdictions. There are many similarities in that in both countries women now make up at least 50% of law students, but they constitute a smaller percentage of judges (around 30-40%) and only around 25% of High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court judges in England and Wales.

They also discussed the importance of the independence of the judiciary and whether it should be mandatory for judges to retire when they reach a certain age (it is here, but not in the US).
The programme included an interesting article about the introduction of coercive control as a criminal offence in December 2015, and how members of Women’s Aid are training regional police forces to identify and deal with it.

In the next article Lady Hale took the BBC Legal Correspondent, Clive Coleman on a tour of the Supreme Court building and talked to him about the recent decision of the Court that Parliament had been unlawfully prorogued. Lady Hale also spoke about her concerns regarding the lack of access to justice for people involved in family disputes and the importance of early advice for both parties in family cases.

I was interested to hear that tradition dictates that it is the most junior of the 11 Supreme Court Justices sitting on a case who is invited to give their opinion first.

Lady Hale stated that she was proud of the decision of the Supreme Court in the case of RR. This case was about how the “bedroom tax” discriminated against couples where one partner was disabled and a second bedroom was needed for medical reasons, and invoked the protection of the Human Rights Act.

There was further discussion about how a third of countries in the world still do not have legislation regarding sex discrimination in the workplace and how there has recently been general agreement on a UN Convention against harassment and sexual violence. So far the convention has only been ratified by one country – Uruguay, but it is expected that many more countries will ratify it soon.

On a more light-hearted note there was talk about Lady Hale’s brooch collection and the intense interest in the spider brooch which she wore when giving the judgment in the prorogation of Parliament case.

If you are interested in listening to the full programme, here is the link

Lady Hale’s guest edit of the Today Programme was reviewed by our Head of Family, Joanna Toloczko. Contact Joanna on 020 3861 5155 or at for advice on all aspects of Family Law.