UK
23/09/2015 06:57 BST | Updated 23/09/2015 07:59 BST

Supreme Court Justice Jonathan Sumption Says Men Could Be Deterred By Rush To Have More Women Judges

A Supreme Court justice has been criticised for saying efforts to put more women in senior judicial positions could put off talented men.

Lord Sumption also said women were unrepresented in part because of "appalling" working conditions that did not fit their lifestyle and that rushing to put more women on the bench would upset "the delicate" judiciary.

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Lord Sumption, pictured before he became a judge

Lord Sumption, who is also a historian, told The Evening Standard it was "rubbish" to say the courts were run by an "old boys' network" and said equality campaigners had to be "patient".

He said: "We have got to be very careful not to do things at a speed which will make male candidates feel that the cards are stacked against them. If we do that we will find that male candidates don’t apply in the right numbers.

"Eighty-five per cent of newly appointed judges in France are women because the men stay away. Eighty-five per cent women is just as bad as 85% men."

He said lawyers' jobs are defined by "demanding" hours and "appalling" working conditions. He added: "There are more women than men who are not prepared to put up with that."

Shadow justice secretary Charlie Falconer told Buzzfeed that attitudes such as Lord Sumption's could "restrict" appointment of female judges.

He said: "This view suggests that senior judges think that to address the gender balance it needs to progress slowly, which is wrong. It can be done much more quickly."

Dinah Rose, a QC, told The Law Society Gazette: "To see [Sumption] say that it is women's lifestyle choices, and in particular their reluctance to work long hours, that is the barrier to women reaching the top ranks of the judiciary suggests there are no structural barriers impeding women’s professional progress."

Out of 106 High Court judges, 21 are women, while eight of 38 Court of Appeal judges are.

A spokesperson for the Law Society, which represents solicitors, told The Huffington Post UK: “We strongly encourage equality and diversity at all levels of the legal sector.

"Increasing the representation of underrepresented groups within the judiciary can only be a benefit to the diverse population we serve.”

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