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I may be guilty senior judge tells UEL

Landscape Architecture Project

One of the two most senior legal figures in the UK has told UEL he may have been subconsciously prejudiced during his career.

Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury – the President of the UK Supreme Court – told a packed auditorium at USS he “couldn’t swear” he hadn’t been prejudiced. His startling revelation came in response to a question about why there was only one female judge in the Supreme Court despite the Equality Act.

He had been speaking about ethnicity and diversity as part of his talk, ‘Law in the UK and the four Es: Education, Ethnicity, EU and ECHR’.

“If you sit round a table, everyone agrees that you want to increase diversity, more women, more ethnic minorities, everyone agrees that and I’m sure they mean it,” said Lord Neuberger. “What none of us can cater for -- and I freely admit that I may be guilty of it -- is subconscious or unaware prejudice.”

The judge added that he hoped that wasn’t the case. He stressed that, like everyone who makes selections of significance, he has had subconscious prejudice awareness training.

“I hope I’ve been properly trained for it,” said Lord Neuberger.  “I can’t stand here and swear that I haven’t been prejudiced but by definition I don’t know.  I hope and believe that where I‘ve decided, together with other members of the selection panel, who to select, that it was on merit.”

Lord Neuberger conceded that there is a time-lag factor in the legal profession because it reflects the world of 20 years ago.

“We have got a lamentable number of women and we’re even worse on ethnic minorities, but I would love to improve it,” he said. “If we come back in 25 years I believe that things will look better”.

Lord Neuberger was speaking as part of UEL’s Civic Engagement programme and the School of Business and Law Clinic’s Public Legal Education Series, “Know the Law”.

“We are extremely proud of the work the law clinic does both in terms of the quality of the work the students do for the community, the experience it gives students and the outreach work the clinic does by organising such events,” said Matthew Humphreys, Dean of the School of Business and Law. “It is a real honour that Lord Neuberger came to speak at the clinic’s event.”

More than 150 people attended the event. UEL vice chancellor, Professor John Joughin, was delighted that UEL was able to host Lord Neuberger and introduced him to the audience. Among the other guests was Imran Khan, patron of the law clinic.

Notes to Editors

The University of East London (UEL) is a global learning community with students from over 120 countries world-wide. Our vision is to achieve recognition, both nationally and internationally, as a successful and inclusive regional university proud of its diversity, committed to new modes of learning which focus on students and enhance their employability, and renowned for our contribution to social, cultural and economic development, especially through our research and scholarship. We have a strong track-record in widening participation and working with industry.