Four senior judges resign from Garrick Club after men-only membership row

From left to right, the senior judges are: Keith John Lindblom, Nicholas Cusworth, Nicholas Lavender and Ian William
From left to right, the senior judges are: Keith John Lindblom, Nicholas Cusworth, Nicholas Lavender and Ian William

Four senior judges have resigned from the Garrick Club as a row continues over its men-only membership, as the Lady Chief Justice called for inclusivity across the legal profession.

The Judicial Office confirmed that Keith Lindblom, an appeal court judge, and three high court justices Nicholas Cusworth, Nicholas Lavender and Ian Dove had quit following mounting scrutiny over their association with the organisation.

A spokesman said it was possible that more judges had left the club without informing the Judicial Office. The office provides training and human resources advice to the judiciary in England and Wales.

Last week, it was reported that a Supreme Court judge, five court of appeal judges, eight High Court judges and about 150 KCs were listed as members of the club where women cannot be admitted a membership.

Sue Carr, the first Lady Chief Justice, who is the president of the courts and head of the judiciary of England and Wales, said the revelations highlighted the need to improve inclusivity in the profession.

Commitment to diversity

She wrote in an internal memo seen by The Guardian: “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.”

The latest resignations follow that of Simon Case, the head of the Civil Service, and Richard Moore, the MI6 chief, as debate continues around the longstanding ban on women.

It comes days after an open letter signed by more than 80 lawyers in England and Wales was published calling on judges to give up their memberships.

The letter stated membership to the Garrick Club was “incompatible with the core principles of justice, equality and fairness”.

Domino effect

Dr Charlotte Proudman, who coordinated the letter alongside fellow barrister Elisabeth Traugott, told Sky News: “I hope that we see a domino effect, with more and more people slowly starting to resign.

“And I certainly hope by the end of this week that all of the judges have resigned from the Garrick Club.”

A second open letter also claimed that membership of the Garrick was inconsistent with the courts and tribunals’ Guide to Judicial Conduct.

Emily Bendell, the fashion entrepreneur who organised the letter, has been campaigning for the Garrick to change its rules for several years.

It highlighted one line in the guide that states: “The principles of exercising equality and fairness of treatment have always been fundamental to the role and conduct of the judiciary when carrying out their judicial functions… These principles should also be reflected in conduct outside court.”

The guide was jointly authored by Lord Justice Lindblom, one of the judges who resigned from the Garrick this week.

Another line from the guide quoted in the letter states: “Because the judicial office necessarily attracts public scrutiny, judicial office holders are subject to constraints on their private lives which might not apply to others.

“They should not act in a way, even in their private or family life, which could reduce respect for judicial office or cast doubt on their independence, impartiality or integrity.”

Helena Kennedy, a barrister and Labour member of the House of Lords, suggested that a US-style system barring judges from holding membership to organisations that practise discrimination should be imposed.

The US federal code of conduct for judges states that they “should not hold membership in any organisation that practises invidious discrimination on the basis of race, sex, religion, or national origin”, adding that such membership “gives rise to perceptions that the judge’s partiality is impaired”.