Sheriffs speak to City of London School for Girls

Alderman and Sheriff Alison Gowman kindly hosted me at the Old Bailey, as our combined talk to the City of London School for Girls had to go on-line owing to the Omicron wave. Timely to be able to speak on themes of law and justice and how these develop over time and are influenced by changing social attitudes, in the wake of various climate action cases before the courts, which raise questions as to how far the law and public sentiment are aligned.

It was also an opportunity to talk on how the law bowed to the change in social attitudes that led to homosexuality being decriminalised during my time as a pupil at the school in the 1970s and much before then allowing married women to own property and ultimately obtain the vote. The social attitudes to this, which had led to prolonged opposition and social action by women, was an engaging topic. Some shock was caused when it was mentioned that there used to be a heading in one of the Law of Property Acts headed Married Women and Lunatics (both unable to own property).

Our talk also covered the opportunities for careers in the law and the volunteering opportunities to become magistrates or serve on the Parole Board. A lively Q and A session showed real engagement and interest in the themes.

The talk was followed by an unexpected opportunity to have lunch with Old Bailey judges and discuss the work the judiciary had been doing in schools prior to Covid to encourage young people to consider careers in the legal profession. Greater diversity and social inclusion is a key aim.