By Dave Baldwin
It was a moment of high drama. Lady Hale, the President of the UK’s Supreme Court, drew breath before announcing that the Prime Minister had acted unlawfully when he advised the Queen to suspend Parliament. The decision catapulted Lady Hale – and the giant diamond spider brooch she wore on her lapel – onto the front pages and into the public consciousness.
A lot of water has passed under the bridge since September 24 2019, but Lady Hale hasn’t changed much. Baroness Hale of Richmond, who grew up in North Yorkshire and has family connections to our district, was at the University of Bradford’s School of Law to officially open a new mock law court in her name. As the first woman President of the UK’s Supreme Court and a genuine trailblazer for equality and justice, it was a fitting honour.
Bradford’s School of Law was established in 2005 and has since graduated close to 2,000 aspiring legal eagles. It’s a small school, but prides itself on offering superb support and learning to its students with a real focus on skills training. The Lady Hale Court is a great addition for a great school. The university also wants the local community to have access to the room and experience the look and feel of a ‘real’ court.
Speaking to the Yorkshire Post, Lady Hale said: “It’s very important that the diversity of those entering the legal profession is increased. Because the law is for everyone, and those who are administering the law should reflect everyone. It shouldn’t just be a narrow, so-called elite group of people. And so a place like Bradford, which is making real efforts towards social inclusion and being there for everyone, is a very valuable place.”
The university statistics speak for themselves: more than 70 per cent of students are from BAME backgrounds and more than 50 per cent of students are from the most socio-economically deprived areas.
Bradford was named University of the Year for Social Inclusion 2020 in the latest Times/Sunday Times university league table. The award was based on measures including numbers of mature and disabled students, those from non-selective state schools, from ethnic minorities and from the most deprived areas. “Bradford… offers lessons to the rest of British higher education on how to effectively embrace social diversity on campus,” said the guide.
Diversity is a great strength of my home city. Indeed, Prince William said he found Bradford “very intriguing” in this respect. We have a fantastic multicultural hub, bringing together people of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities. Black and minority ethnic communities make up 36 per cent of the city’s total population, and 153 different languages are spoken in schools in the district.
For the city to achieve its full potential, we need to ensure that everyone has the chance to contribute. In our annual review of progress of our economic growth strategy, I was particularly pleased that more BME women are in work than before – in the year to March 2019, it broke the 20,000 barrier – that number has doubled since 2010. I would hope to see more of the same when we look back on the current year. Inspiring female leaders from all backgrounds are pushing ahead and breaking down barriers.
Professor Shirley Congdon is an inspirational individual. As Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bradford, she knows that the university has an important part to play in promoting equality and diversity. Writing in the Yorkshire Post last summer, she spoke about everyone having the opportunity to go to university and challenging the structural issues in society that hold people back. Her plan is more engagement with small, medium and large companies in Bradford to help them become more productive. Better quality jobs and more work experience opportunities would drive social inclusion through economic growth.
Lady Hale is another leading the charge for equality – the first woman to be appointed to the Law Commission and the first female to lead the most powerful court in the land, where she can take the Prime Minister to task. Speaking at the opening of the Lady Hale Court – this time wearing an eye-catching octopus brooch on her lapel – she spoke passionately about the need for all young people to have an opportunity to make best use of their talents. It was Yorkshire through and through – sensible, straight forward but with a touch of courtroom drama.
Picture credit: Tony Johnson / Yorkshire Post