Next 100 Years celebrates 50th anniversary of first female judge sitting at the Old Bailey

Fifty years ago on 4 January 1972, Rose Heilbron QC became the first female judge to sit at the Old Bailey.

It was another first for a trailblazing lawyer with an unprecedented career which saw her become the first woman to receive a first-class Law degree from Liverpool University, the first woman to win a scholarship to Gray’s Inn, one of the first two women to be appointed KC in England, the first woman appointed a Recorder, and the second female High Court Judge.

The Next 100 Yearsthe successor project to the First 100 Years, will be celebrating the anniversary on 26 January with a special event looking at Rose’s life and legacy, 50 years of women judges at the Old Bailey and reflecting on the progress towards equality still to be made in the judiciary and at the Bar.

Introduced by Lord Chief Justice Ian Burnett, the evening will feature a conversation between Hilary Heilbron QC, daughter of Rose Heilbron, and Sir Christopher Rose, a former Vice President of the Criminal Division of the Court of Appeal.

Anuja Dhir QC, the first non-white judge to be appointed to sit at the Old Bailey, Mark Lucraft QC, Recorder of London, Jo Delahunty QC, barrister at 4 Paper Building Chambers and Laurie-Anne Power, barrister at 25 Bedford Row Chambers will also take part in a panel discussion chaired by Next 100 Years founder Dana Denis-Smith.

The event is the first of 2022, a year which will also see the 100-year anniversary of the qualification of the first women solicitors, Carrie Morrison, Maud Crofts, Mary Sykes and Mary Pickup, and 100 years since Ivy Williams became the first woman to be called to the Bar in England and Wales.

Hilary Heilbron QC said: “It took almost 300 years for my mother to become the first female judge to sit at the Old Bailey, the renowned Central Criminal Court where so many famous criminal trials had taken place, including some in which my mother herself appeared as Queen’s Counsel.

“That day, 50 years ago, was regarded as somewhat momentous and another remarkable achievement in my mother’s extraordinary career. I remember well the excitement and extraordinary public interest it created, both nationally and internationally, with a great deal of media coverage and banner headlines in the newspapers. It was yet another first in her pioneering career.

“This anniversary follows another important milestone at the Old Bailey when, in summer last year, for the first time, the judges sitting there comprised an equal number of men and women, something I am sure my mother would have proudly welcomed.”

Dana Denis-Smith, founder of the Next 100 Years says: “2022 is a significant year for the history of women in the legal profession, marking 50 years since Rose Heilbron’s landmark Old Bailey appearance and 100 years since the first female barristers and solicitors qualified.

“Significant progress has been made since those early pioneers – last year the Old Bailey reached gender parity among its judges for the first time. This year we will be celebrating the legacy of those early trail blazers but will also continue to push for change, working towards equality for women in the judiciary, at the bar and in the rest of the legal profession.”

Rose died in 2005, aged 91. The significance of her legacy is reflected in her inclusion in the artwork hanging in the Supreme Court, ‘Legacy’, by Catherine Yass – commissioned and donated by the First 100 Years Project. The artwork is featured in an exhibition currently on display outside the Supreme Court, as part of the Westminster “Inside Out” Festival. Rose Heilbron’s remarkable life and achievements are portrayed in Hilary’s biography of her mother entitled “Rose QC”, published by Hart Publishing, Bloomsbury Publishing PLC.

For further information on the anniversary event, which will be held online and will take place Wednesday, 26 January 2022, 6:30-8pm, please click here.

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