A group of 10 members from the school’s Law Society journeyed to the Supreme Court in Parliament Square, London on the afternoon of Monday 5th February to meet Baroness Hale of Richmond, the first woman President of the UK Supreme Court.
On arrival pupils were taken in to see the case before the Court that afternoon, ie Gavin Edmondson Solicitors v Haven Insurance Company Ltd, a case involving the recovery of legal costs following a road traffic accident.
After the case closed at 4.00 pm, Baroness Hale invited everyone to join her in the main court room and spoke to the children about the history of the Supreme Court and how it operates. She then invited questions and was asked if the UK Supreme Court was like the Supreme Court in America?
Baroness Hale explained that in American the President appoints Supreme Court judges – here appointments are not political appointments. In the USA their Supreme Court can declare that a law is invalid – in the UK we can only interpret the law. This led to another question about Britain and America. In Britain, it was observed, judges wear wigs and grand costumes and in America they don’t. Baroness Hale pointed out that the Supreme Court is unique as the judges had decided not to wear costumes, only their everyday clothes, as they felt the costumes were a little outdated.
Asked about the qualifications that are most useful for anyone wanting to be a judge, Baroness Hale told the children that a history degree is very useful as the skills you need to assess evidence in History are very similar to the skills you need with law cases.
At the end of the session, Baroness Hale explained why flags of numerous Commonwealth countries were on display in the main court room. This is because the UK Supreme Court also serves as the Supreme Court for a number of Commonwealth countries who have retained it as the final court of appeal in their legal system. In the discussion that followed, it came to light that because a number of these Commonwealth countries have retained the death penalty, the court hears final appeals from condemned murderers sentenced to be hung from a number of these counties. However, Baroness Hale told the children that such cases are much smaller in number than they were some years ago.
After saying goodbye to Baroness Hale, the children proceeded to The Langham in Portland Place for a meal before leaving London for the school.