Western Circuit Women's Forum
The first woman called to the Bar, Ivy Williams, was born in Newton Abbot, Devon. Although she never practised, we on the Western Circuit should be proud of her early pioneering spirit.
Nearly 100 years later however, the Western Circuit has fallen behind other circuits in reaching that "Holy Grail" of equality between men and women both at the Bar and in the judiciary. (See "Figures" below.)
The Western Circuit Women's Forum has been set up with three simple aims:
- To encourage and help more Western Circuit women to stay at the Bar:
- To encourage and help more Western Circuit women to become QC's;
- To encourage and help more Western Circuit women to attain judicial posts
The first major project of the WCWF is to provide mentoring for all Western Circuit women under 10 years’ call. We are following the recommendation made by the Bar Council in their 2015 report "Snapshot of Women at the Bar" - but rather than having a voluntary scheme we propose to automatically allocate to each woman member under 10 years a mentor woman barrister of over ten years' call - ideally in the same geographical and practice area.
The idea behind mentoring is to give junior women barristers access to female role models who will be able to assist in the specific concerns that face women at the Bar. UPDATE: The mentoring scheme is now well under way with all female barristers under 10 years call as at September 2016 being allocated a more senior barrister as a mentor. We were delighted to receive even more applications for mentors than we needed. The scheme has received very positive feedback, and we hope that younger women on Circuit will benefit from having ready access to the experience of women who have stayed on at the Bar. Thanks to all who have participated. If you would like to participate, would like to know more about the rationale for the scheme, or have not heard who your mentor/mentee is, please contact Selena Plowden who is taking the lead in running the scheme at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please contact us urgently if you have either not been given a mentor or you are willing to be a mentor.
We intend to produce a list of senior women who are QC's, Judges and Recorders willing to mentor women who would like help with applications for silk or judicial appointment. UPDATE: The timetable for the 2017 Recorder competition has now been published. The QC competition is now open and applications need to be in by the 30th March. If anyone is considering applying please contact us if you would like some assistance with the application process. We will put you in touch with a QC, Judge or Recorder who is willing to offer guidance/support. The following links to the JAC website may also help: JAC/Law society Role play video- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EM8dE09wtj0 and Am I ready test (This tests character, suitability and eligibility requirements for judicial appointment) - https://jac.judiciary.gov.uk/am-i-ready-tools.
We intend to organise and moderate local meetings for women barristers to encourage support and networking and to respond to any local concerns. In time we intend to set up networking links with other professional women's groups particularly those connected with the law.
50% of barristers called to the Bar are women.
35% of practicing barristers are women
6% of barristers over 22 years call are women.
Nationally 25% of judges (deputy DJ’s to Heads of Division) are women.
That figure falls to only 18% on the Western Circuit.
Nationally 15% of QC’s are women.
That figure falls to only 11% on the Western Circuit.
There are only 8 women Circuit judges on the Western Circuit.
Remarkably 7 are based in Hampshire.
For a fuller breakdown of the figures please follow link to the Bar Council's 2015 Report on Creating a Diverse Profession.
The WCWF launch party ‘Staying Power’ was held at Winchester Guildhall on the 13th October 2016. It was a great success with 5 extraordinary speakers. Click here to read ‘A Personal View’ about the launch.
Administrator: Lucy Banwell, based at Albion Chambers
The Steering Group - About Us
We are 4 women barristers over 10 years call and one circuit judge who believe, with the help of other women on the Western Circuit, we should and can do something to change ’The Figures’. We don’t suggest we have all the answers but we hope our own experiences, both professionally and personally, may give us some insight into issues facing women barristers under 10 years call.
Kate Brunner QC is one of only a handful of female criminal silks on Circuit. Called in 1997. A Recorder and part time judge of the Upper Tribunal. Based at Albion Chambers, Bristol, she is married with two young daughters.
Rachael Goodall is a family practitioner at 3PB Barristers, Bournemouth. Called in 2000. She is married with two young children.
Jo Martin is a criminal barrister at Devon Chambers, Plymouth and a newly appointed Recorder. Called in 2005 but formerly a CPS Solicitor. She lives with her partner, Mary.
Carol Mashembo is a family practitioner at Magdalen Chambers, Exeter. Called in 1999. Married with a toddler aged 2.
Her Honour Judge Sarah Munro QC is one of only 8 female Circuit judges on Circuit. Called in 1984; QC in 2000 and appointed a judge sitting at Portsmouth Crown Court in 2011 having battled cancer. Sits in the Court of Appeal and a member of Sentencing council. One son (now grown up).
Selena Plowden is a Clinical Negligence practitioner at Guildhall Chambers, Bristol, called 1991. She also sits as a Mental Health Judge. She has three, no longer small, children.