September 27, 2019

How to catch a spider: Lady Hale, subject of a new children’s book, delivers verdict on liar Boris Johnson


Hello American friends! Have you been keeping up with the epic political fiasco continuing to unfold in the UK? No? Let me give you a quick recap!

“It is impossible for us to conclude, on the evidence which has been put before us, that there was any reason—let alone a good reason—to advise Her Majesty to prorogue Parliament for five weeks, from 9th or 12th September until 14th October. We cannot speculate, in the absence of further evidence, upon what such reasons might have been. It follows that the decision was unlawful.”

So what on earth happens next? (See Boris Johnson could go to jail if he refuses to ask for extension.) Will Brexit happen? Won’t it? (spoiler—it definitely won’t on the 31stOctober).

Amidst the bloody mess, Lady Brenda Hale has become something of an internet sensation. Hale is the first female head of the supreme court, having taken up the role in October 2017. In 1984, she became the first woman and youngest person to be appointed to the Law Commission. She does not come from lofty beginnings. Both her parents were headteachers and she was educated at the Richmond High School for Girls in North Yorkshire, later studying at Girton College, Cambridge—the first from her school to attend Cambridge. In a class of 116, she was one of six women. She is, in fact, something of a badass. As Peter Stanford wrote for the Telegraph:

“Brenda Hale has been given many labels by both admirers and critics during a long and distinguished career: a trailblazer for women in the law; a hardline feminist; a troublemaker; and even, of late, by younger members of her profession, of being its very own equivalent of Beyonce.”

What really seems to have caught the public’s attention, particularly on social media, is the eye-catching brooch Hale was wearing while reading out the televised verdict. Not adverse to an statement piece, she has previous been seen wearing brooches of dragonflies, caterpillars, butterflies. On 24th September she choose a bejewelled spider.

Lauren Cochrane and Martin Belam wrote in the Guardian: “Wearing a spider to deliver news that trapped the prime minister felt pointed—a message backed on a safety pin.”

In a spot of genius marketing, Balcony Shirts, an independent London-based business, designed and brought out a t-shirt replicating Lady Hale’s outfit last week, and people went mad for it. Selling on eBay for £10, they sold all stock (6,500 shirts) in 24 hours, making £18,000, 30% of which they donated to homelessness charity, Shelter.

Lady Hale has become something of a inspiration … and now a children’s book is due for publication on October 10 based on her life.

Legal Action Group is an an independent charity, promoting equal access to justice for all members of society who are socially or economically disadvantaged. They usually publish text books and a monthly journal, but they are widening their horizons with this new book, which has been crowdfunded with donations from individuals and a grant from the Sigrid Rausing Trust.

Equal to Everything is written by former barrister Afua Hirsch and illustrated by Henry Beaumont and it is:

‘… an inspiring story of a little girl who worked hard at school and went on to be extraordinary. It aims to empower children to believe they can achieve their dreams and never letting other people tell them they are not good enough.’

Legal Action Group publishing director Esther Pilger told Katie Mansfield at The Bookseller:

“This book aims to inspire young girls but also illustrates an aspiration for a more diverse judiciary of the future that is not all white, all male or all privately educated. It illustrates real cases that Brenda has judged to discuss themes of fairness, dignity and the importance of the best interests of children in the law. The idea for the book came from a successful US children’s book on Ruth Bader Ginsberg.”

Lady Hale will be stepping down from her position next year when she turns 75, the mandatory retirement age for judges appointed before 1995. An incredibly ageist ruling, which I’m sure our own Ashton Applewhite, ageism expert and author of This Chair Rocks, would have something to say about. Let’s hope Lady Hale’s legacy will be remembered, not just for her fabulous taste in accessories. All Hale the Beyonce of law.



Nikki Griffiths is the managing director of Melville House UK.