Senior High Court judge resigns from Garrick Club amid impartiality row (2024)

One of the High Court’s most senior judges has resigned from the men-only Garrick Club amid mounting pressure on the judiciary to quit their memberships amid concerns about impartiality.

Last month the full membership list of the London gentlemen’s club, which was founded in 1831 and is one of the oldest of its kind in the world, was leaked, prompting renewed anger at its continued refusal to admit women.

The list included cabinet ministers as well as some of Britain’s most powerful judges.

As a result of the leak, first reported by The Guardian, the head of the civil service Simon Case and MI6 chief Richard Moore quit their membership of the club, along with four senior judges.

They included the Court of Appeal judge and Senior President of Tribunals, Sir Nicholas Cusworth, as well as High Court judges Sir Keith Lindblom, Sir Ian Dove and Sir Nicholas Lavender.

The list included many other senior figures in the judiciary, including a Supreme Court judge, five Court of Appeal judges, eight High Court judges, and about 150 KCs. It also featured dozens of members of the House of Lords and 10 MPs.

The Judicial Office has now confirmed that Julian Flaux,the Chancellor of the High Court, resigned from the Garrick Club in the wake of the mounting controversy. He is the fifth senior judge to quit.

In response, Dr Charlotte Proudman, an award-winning barrister who represents survivors of rape, domestic abuse and controlling behaviour in the family courts, called on the other members of the judiciary to follow suit or be recused from cases.

“Judges who are members of all-male elitist clubs are likely participating in discrimination and even bias against women,” she said.

“This leaves female victims of male violence with no confidence in judges who are members of boys’ clubs such as the Garrick.

“Despite the calls from the legal profession for judges to resign their membership of the Garrick, it is deeply disappointing to see that only five have publicly resigned.

“What about the other judges, of which there are many? Why are they not listening to women? To sit in judgment of other people’s lives is an immensely privileged position and it must be earned through respect, trust and confidence.

“In my view, members cannot be trusted to be impartial and fair. It is for this very reason I believe judges should resign their membership of male-only clubs and uphold principles of equality and justice, the cornerstones of the rule of law.”

‘Skewed demographic’

Dr Proudman’s comments come after High Court judge Sir Jonathan Cohen was removed from overseeing a case involving her client, an alleged rape victim, who claimed she would be “prejudiced” by his membership of the male-only club.

She added: “They have no role hearing cases involving sex discrimination or violence against women and girls. I expect to see more recusal applications in the coming weeks.

“Our judiciary must reflect our society - modern, diverse and inclusive - not a skewed demographic of white male privilege.”

The list also included three bishops, including two retired and one serving, and 14 reverends.

About 150 men identified on the list have the title Sir and 40 have the title Lord.

‘Alive to the issues’

The membership leak revealed the King to be among hundreds of establishment figures in its ranks, as well as Oliver Dowden, the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, and the former attorney general Dominic Grieve, as well as the actor Brian Cox and Matthew Macfadyen, his Succession co-star.

Lady Chief Justice Sue Carr, who is the president of the courts and head of the judiciary of England and Wales, also waded into the debate in the wake of the initial leak.

In an internal message sent to judges, she wrote: “You will have seen the recent media coverage relating to judicial members of the Garrick Club. I am alive to the issues raised, which I take very seriously.

“I wish to emphasise my commitment to diversity and inclusivity across the judiciary. We must continue our vital work in this area including delivering on the work outlined in our diversity and inclusion strategy.”

A spokesman for the Judicial Office said: “The Chancellor of the High Court Julian Flaux resigned from the Garrick Club after the initial Guardian article.”

The Garrick Club was contacted for comment.

Senior High Court judge resigns from Garrick Club amid impartiality row (2024)
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