Dame Sue Carr becomes Lady Chief Justice

Dame Sue Carr becomes Lady Chief Justice

Dame Sue Carr has become the Lady Chief Justice, the first woman to hold the title of the most senior judge in England and Wales.

She was sworn in on Monday during a ceremony at the Royal Courts of Justice in front of her family, heads of the legal profession and Lord Chancellor Alex Chalk, as well as scores of senior judges.

The Lady Chief Justice Lady Carr is the 98th person in the role – which dates back to the 13th century – and her swearing in follows the retirement of former Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett.

She said: “It is a great privilege to assume this role.

“I would like to pay tribute to Lord Burnett who has demonstrated extraordinary resilience and leadership during a time of great change, including keeping the courts running during the pandemic.

“He has personally given so much to the law and to the judiciary.

“I do not underestimate the challenges that lie ahead, and I look forward to approaching the role with energy, enthusiasm, and positivity.

“The rule of law is a fundamental constitutional principle which underpins an open, fair and peaceful society, where citizens and businesses can prosper. Our judges and magistrates are its cornerstone.”

Lord Chief Justice appointment
Lady Justice Carr (Dame Sue Carr) has been formally appointed Lady Chief Justice of England and Wales (Rory Lindsay/Lady Justice Carr/PA)

Sir Geoffrey Vos described Monday’s ceremony, which was livestreamed for the first time, as a “landmark in our national life”.

He continued: “Sue is the first woman ever to have been appointed chief justice of England and Wales.

“That is in itself both remarkable and an achievement that should be celebrated. Sue will now always be first.

“In celebrating her appointment though, we should be careful not to be complacent. A milestone, however notable, on a long road is not the end of a journey.”

Sir Geoffrey later said Lady Carr’s “generosity and voracious capacity for hard work cannot be underestimated”.

Lady Chief Justice
Lady Chief Justice Lady Carr is the 98th person in the role (Jordan Pettitt/PA)

“She will be fearless in protecting the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law,” he concluded.

The Lady Chief Justice’s role involves liaising with the Government, including over provision of resources to the judiciary, and being responsible for the welfare, training and guidance of the judiciary as well as the deployment of judges and allocation of work in the courts.

Lady Carr became a barrister in 1987 and took silk in 2003. She held a number of senior roles during her career as a lawyer, including chair of the Bar Standards Board conduct committee and complaints commissioner to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

She became a criminal judge in 2009 and a High Court judge in 2013, before being appointed a Lady Justice of Appeal in 2020.

Law Society of England and Wales President Lubna Shuja said: “We look forward to working with Dame Sue Carr as she takes office.

Judges at Westminster Abbey in London for the annual Judges Service
The annual Judges Service was held later on Monday at Westminster Abbey in London (James Manning/PA)

“This is a historic moment which I am proud to witness.

“I hope it will lead to further progress on women’s representation within the judiciary.

“Around a third of judges in our courts are women, with even fewer in the senior judiciary.

“This momentous appointment is a sign that times are changing, and improvement is on the way.”

Later on Monday, Lady Carr and Mr Chalk both gave readings at the traditional Judges Service at Westminster Abbey in central London that marks the start of the new legal year.

The annual event was attended by hundreds of judges wearing full ceremonial robes and wigs, with attendees including Supreme Court justices and senior legal figures from the UK and around the world.