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Western Circuit Women's Forum

 Mission Statement

Ivy WilliamsIvy WilliamsThe 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 Proposal

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

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-   and Am I ready test (This tests character, suitability and eligibility requirements for judicial appointment) -

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.

The Figures

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.   


UPDATE: The BSB is running a consultation on shared parental leave. Please give your views following this link: The WCWF response can be read here.

Useful Links

Temple Women's Forum

The Association of Women Barristers

The Bar Standards Board Press Release on unfair treatment of Women

Women at the Bar from First 100 years’s Tweet

Launch Party

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. 


Contact Us

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 QCKate Brunner QC

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 GoodallRachael Goodall           

Rachael Goodall is a family practitioner at 3PB Barristers, Bournemouth.  Called in 2000. She is married with two young children.


Jo MartinJo Martin

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 MashemboCarol Mashembo

Carol Mashembo is a family practitioner at Magdalen Chambers, Exeter. Called in 1999. Married with a toddler aged 2.  


Her Honour Judge Corinne Searle is one of only 9 female Circuit judges on Circuit. Called in 1982 and specialising in family law she was appointed a judge sitting in Exeter and Plymouth Family Court.  

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.