When I was appointed there were certainly amongst the assorted multitude of worthies many I mentally considered as ladies who lunch but for “lunch” substitute “sit”. They constituted only a small percentage of the total coterie of females on our bench but their presence was hardly as wallflowers. They tended to group together and talk just a little bit louder than was necessary. In retrospect they appeared to sit mainly in the morning. Thankfully most of them have departed no doubt continuing their activities as ladies who lunch but without the court taking up their time once a fortnight. Our listing processes have always allowed half day sittings. Indeed a significant minority of younger women have told me that without the half day (morning) sitting facility it would be difficult to commit to continuing in the job. These people, younger than our average, well educated, ambitious and capable, constitute a section of our bench which would be severely disadvantaged without their input, insight and contributions. But for how much longer will this be the case?
At this time, a month or so before we receive our rota information form to be computed for nest year, our bench chairman has made it clear that she wishes to reduce the number of half day sittings being offered. There is no doubt at all that the aim is for everybody to commit to full day sittings only. To be fair this directive comes from on high and the chairman has said more or less that she is powerless in this regard however much she sympathises with those in opposition. It is just another example of our being treated as unpaid employees and a further indication that HMCTS cares absolutely nothing about the magistracy per se and is concerned only with getting a quart of court time from a pint of court money. Perhaps next it will be wine from water.