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Artillery Row

Who judges the judges?

Judges, whatever their gender, need sufficient judgement to maintain neutrality and political impartiality

Judges must swear an oath on taking office “… I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm, without fear or favour, affection or ill will.”  A judge without sufficient judgment to maintain a public face of neutrality and political impartiality cannot be a Judge. Activist lawyers may be irritating enough; an activist Judge is a direct and dangerous threat to our democracy and respect for the rule of law. 

Victoria McCloud has been described as the youngest and only second female “Master” appointed to the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court in 2010.  However, McCloud adopted the identity of a woman in the 1990s; she was born male and remains male; This was made public in 2016.  I will use female pronouns as I write, out of courtesy, not because I believe Victoria McCloud is a woman. 

There is only one way to be a woman, that is to be born female and live beyond 18 years.  This belief — or as I prefer to call it, this fact — is now confirmed as “worthy of respect in a democratic society” following the Employment Appeal Tribunal victory of Maya Forstater in June 2021. I may think this, and I may say it. It is not bigotry, harassment, or abuse. It is protected political speech under both the ECHR and the Equality Act 2010, 

This belated recognition that sex is real and it matters, and should be respected as an organising category in society, is clearly not welcomed by all. The Times reported on 22nd February 2024 that Master McCloud had left the judiciary over fears that she had become a “target” and was “political every time I choose where to pee”. She decided to stand down to save her own and the court’s dignity and likened herself to Rosa Parks in her resignation letter. It is not difficult to see who McCloud blames for this situation — those horrible “gender critical” women, who hold that a person cannot alter their biological sex, and who refuse to allow a brave trans woman a seat on the bus. 

McCloud’s perception is however only part of the story. She has recently committed to public declarations via social media about gender identity which demonstrate a concerning lack of objectivity and political neutrality. For example, she opined that the organisations Sex Matters and LGB Alliance might be engaged in criminal harassment by manifesting their protected belief about the importance of sex. Or that “gender identity” is a “biological characteristic” and any other view is simply a “belief” we should keep to ourselves. These unwise public pronouncements have been set out by Maya Forstater on her “X” account. 

It was also Master McCloud who contributed to the version of guidance for the judiciary in the Equal Treatment Bench Book (now revised after much outrage) that stated women who alleged assault from men who now identified as women, should be expected to address such men by female pronouns. 

I also have my own experience which leads me to reject McCloud’s claimed kinship with Rosa Parks.  I was surprised in 2022 to be contacted directly by Master McCloud via LinkedIn, using a profile that left me in no doubt that Master McCloud was a serving member of (then) Her Majesty’s judiciary. We had an initially polite exchange which descended quite quickly into accusations that I was “angry” and “harboured views” against trans people. I replied as followed and was promptly blocked along with the comment that my views about children’s safety were “beyond the pale”. 

I am not “angry” and I do not “harbour” any views about you — other than surprise that you are apparently unaware of the significant issues that impact women’s rights and children’s safety, while at the same time advising other members of the judiciary on how to approach such tensions. I am sorry that you feel that way, and even more sad that this simply underscores how difficult it is to make any progress in this area. Thank you for reaching out and I am sorry we were not able to make more progress. 

I was sufficiently alarmed by this behaviour from a serving Judge that I made a complaint to the Judicial Conduct Investigations Office. My complaint was rejected on the basis that Master McCloud was expressing her personal views. I thought then and continue to think that this entirely missed the point. It was precisely the expression of those personal intemperate and discriminatory views, while contacting me as an identifiable serving Judge, to which I objected. 

we are still in a position where a serving Judge does not appear to understand the oath she took

It is a source of sadness and bafflement to me that after about six years fighting the “gender wars”, and helping to claw back essential human rights at great emotional and financial cost we are still in a position where a serving Judge does not appear to understand the oath she took — and nor do any of those mourning her public loss to the judiciary. Master McCloud may adopt whatever gender identity she wishes; she must be protected from abuse and harassment because of it. However, those of us who reject “gender identity” as a salient organising category must be reassured that those in positions of significant power and influence treat us fairly and in accordance with the law. If a Judge finds that he or she simply cannot do this, then they must step down immediately — in recognition of their failure to meet the basic standards required of them for public life. 

The claimed equivalence with Rosa Parks is risible and insulting. Rosa Parks could not identify out of being black or female.  She stood up for her rights with immense bravery, at a time and in a society which would quite happily have seen her lynched for it. All Master McCloud had to do was keep her discriminatory views to herself and she would still be riding that judicial bus, sitting wherever she chose.

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