Bench photo shoot is still pale and male

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Jul 21, 2017
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When publishing figures that show efforts to bring the judicial bench closer to the ethnic and gender profile of modern society, some might suggest that including a picture of two middle to late middle-aged white chaps is not advisable.

But the office of the courts and tribunals judiciary is old school. There is no denying that Sir Ernest Ryder, the senior president of tribunals, and Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, the lord chief justice, are extremely respected. There is also no denying that they are formally responsible for publishing the annual figures, which show that little progress has been made on gender and ethnic diversity on the bench.

But perhaps their media advisers should point out that publishing a picture of the two with the report – standing, as they were, before shelves of legal tomes – only emphasises that progress on diversity is very slow.

Dali and the DNA test

Some lawyers will find a publicity angle on any story. For example, those connoisseurs of 20th-century Spanish surrealism among The Brief’s readers will be well aware that Salvador Dalí is being disturbed nearly 30 years after being entombed in Figueres.

A 61-year-old woman, María Pilar Abel Martínez, a tarot card reader, claims she is the artist’s only child and she fancies a slice of the great man’s €300 estate. A judge in Madrid has ordered that the most famous moustache in the art world must be dug up to settle the matter through a DNA test. It is doubtful that much of the facial hair will remain but there should be enough cellular matter remaining to decide the claim.

Step forward Michael Mylonas, QC, of Serjeants’ Inn Chambers in London, who may or may not be an art-lover, but he certainly can spot a good story. “Exhuming a body may seem unusual,” says the silk, before pointing out: “The High Court in England recently ordered the sampling of tissues that happened to have been kept by a hospital following testing for cancer. We are dealing with an increasing amount of cases where a sampling of tissue held by a hospital is being ordered, and legitimate children have failed to prevent testing by the claimant who seeks to establish paternity and a share in an estate.”

“Confidentiality doesn’t necessarily attach to post mortem samples and testing may be ordered even where surviving relatives don’t provide consent,” warns Mylonas. 

Even when entombed you have to keep one eye open these days.

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