As a court reporter I sat in on five cases at three different courts (Stratford Magistrates’ Court, City of London Magistrates’ Court, and Snaresbrook Crown Court), and I am pleased to report that in five out of five cases, the judge was female.
This is contrary to standard expectations of judges as wig-wearing men, and also at odds with the recent survey conducted by Esther magazine, which found that three out of four judges are still male.
My personal experience as a court reporter seems to have been ahead of the curve.
Before I sat in the courtroom as a reporter, my only ‘prior’ of a female judge was the semi-reality tv star, Judge Judy (real judge, simulated courtroom). In this American show, the judge herself is known for her extreme tenacity – more bullheaded than anything answering to the description ‘feminine’.
Same goes for the female judges I saw in action in East London courtrooms – certainly more bullish than bovine. Yet there is one incident which sticks in my mind as a distinctively female approach to the administration of justice.
At Snaresbrook a (female) defendant was brought back for sentencing by the same woman who had presided over her trial, and the (female) judge’s attitude towards the woman in the dock could only be described as maternal.
‘You look so much better since the last time I saw you,’ the judge declared. ‘I read that you went through a very painful detox.’
It could have been a mother cheering on her darling daughter at Speech Day.
I doubt whether a male judge would have been so solicitous – but I will need to do another round of court reporting in order to make the comparison. Grace Eracleous