07 July 2020

A former president of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Lady Hale, will give an exclusive talk to law students at the University of East London in September.

Brenda Hale, Baroness Hale of Richmond, who retired from the country's highest court this year, will discuss diversity at the invitation-only event to mark the 45th anniversary of the founding of the University's School of Law (now part of the Royal Docks School of Business and Law).

Lady Hale was originally due to visit University Square Stratford in person, but the event will now be streamed to a virtual audience to meet Covid-19 social distancing guidelines.

The former judge has a long history of campaigning for diversity and inclusion in the legal profession as a means to promote greater confidence in the judiciary. She has said she wants the public to feel those on the bench are "our judges" rather than "beings from another planet".

She has also called for a more balanced gender representation in the Supreme Court and better routes to top jobs in the profession for those from ethnic minority backgrounds and "less privileged lives".

The event's organiser is University of East London law lecturer Eleanor Scarlett, who runs the School's Legal Advice Centre, which offers free advice to members of the public on issues such as family law and welfare benefits.

She said,

This is a tremendous honour for the University of East London. Lady Hale is one of the most significant and recognisable judges of the modern age and our students will be in a privileged position to hear her thoughts directly on an issue that chimes perfectly with our values and priorities.

"The School of Law was established with a mission to engage in public activism and to champion the civil rights of its diverse community. We hope the occasion of Lady Hale's lecture will re-energise our commitment to that cause.

Lady Hale served as the president of the Supreme Court from 2017 to 2020. She came to prominence in September 2019 at the height of the Brexit debate when she declared prime minister Boris Johnson's prorogation of parliament unlawful.

She spent much of her life in academia, working part-time as a barrister. She specialised in family law and oversaw a number of important reforms during her time with the Law Commission in the 1980s.

She was appointed a QC in 1989, became a Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBC) in 1994 and a member of the Privy Council in 1999. In 2004 she became a life peer and sits in the House of Lords as a non-party affiliated Crossbencher.

The webinar, on September 30, will also include a contribution from Imran Khan QC, an alumnus of the school and chiefly known as the lawyer for the family of Stephen Lawrence. Stephen was a Black British teenager killed in a racially motivated attack in 1993. His family's long quest for justice led to a major public inquiry in 1999 that labelled the Metropolitan Police "institutionally racist". Some 70 of its recommendations for reform were enacted.

The event will be opened by Professor John Strawson, honorary professor of law, who will reflect on the activist roots of the law department and his role in its launch and evolution.

Professor Mohammad Ali, dean of the Royal Docks School of Business and Law, said, "We're proud to have one of the most recognisable figures in the UK legal system to help us celebrate 45 years of the School of Law.

"As part of Vision 2028, our 10-year transformation strategy, the University of East London is aiming to increase the social and cultural impact of its work. Lady Hale's virtual visit is an important milestone on that journey."

To attend the event, register here. Priority for the event is being given to students and staff of the Royal Docks School of Business and Law, but all University staff and students may register for the event and those places will be allocated on a "first come first served" basis. 

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