Oct 12, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

The UK held a series of ceremonies on October 2nd in which the new heads of the judiciary in the UK took office, as reported by The Guardian. Sworn in were two particularly noteworthy figures: Brenda Hale, the UK’s female supreme court president, and Sir Ian Burnett, the youngest lord chief justice in half a century. Here’s a closer look at these groundbreaking leaders.

About Lady Brenda Hale

Born in Yorkshire in 1945, Hale is heralded as a long-time champion of judicial diversity and legal and academic reform.

Hale’s appointment as the inaugural female Supreme Court president was far from her first “first.” She was also the first woman appointed to be a law lord in 2004. It was only earlier this month, in fact, that another woman, Jill Black, joined her on the bench. Of Black’s swearing-in at the Westminster ceremony, Lady Hale declared, “It’s a particular pleasure for me to welcome at long last another woman member to the court. I hope it won’t take another 13 years before we have a third, fourth and fifth member of this court.” 

About Sir Ian Burnett

Meanwhile, in a separate ceremony held that day at London’s Royal Courts of Justice, Sir Ian Burnett was sworn into his new role as lord chief justice. A former court of appeal judge, Burnett is the youngest person to head up the judiciary of England and Wales in 50 years.

Said Sir Burnett at the ceremony, “At times of great change, the central role of the judiciary upholding the rule of law remains a constant, as do our impartiality and independence. These features are embedded in the oath I have taken. They are fundamental to our justice system and underpin the effective and smooth functioning of our society. I believe we should be better at explaining our role and the vital importance of our independence and impartiality. These principles have remained a constant through the generations, but the judiciary does not stand still.”

He continued, ““We have embarked upon the most ambitious programme of reform of our courts and tribunals in our history. This would not have been possible without the tireless and visionary leadership of my predecessor Lord Thomas, or the support of the government, who have committed to invest £1bn to make it happen. I will continue to pursue this bold vision.”

Both Lady Hale and Sir Burnett gathered with the rest of the senior judiciary following their respective swearing-in ceremonies at a service heralding the start of the new legal year.

Learn more about studying law in the UK.




Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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