Category: England & Wales

Amendment to Canon C2 of the Canons of the Church of England

Amendment to Canon C2 of the Canons of the Church of England

On the 17 November 2014 the Church of England’s General Synod formally changed the Church’s Canon Law passing legislation enabling women to be consecrated as bishops, and formally amended Canon C2 of the Canons of the Church of England to state that “a man or a woman may be consecrated to the office of bishop” [C2.1]. For the avoidance of doubt, the Canon also made explicit that “In the forms of service contained in The Book of Common Prayer or in the Ordinal words importing the masculine gender in relation to bishops are construed as including the feminine” [C2.6].

Colour photo of female priests
From Diverse Magazine

For the Church of England, this was the culmination of theological debates over women’s ordination which had spanned the twentieth century. From a legal perspective, it was even more significant. Because the Church of England is an established church, the Canon Law which governs its operation forms part of the law of the land.

The position of Church of England bishops is enshrined in the British parliamentary system, as the House of Lords comprises both Lords Temporal (those holding hereditary or life peerages) and Lords Spiritual (the most senior Church of England bishops). The Lords Spiritual had until this point been the last element of the Houses of Parliament that was legally barred to women, and so this Canon removed the final constitutional barrier to women’s full participation in parliament.

The full version of this landmark is written by Miranda Threlfall-Holmes.

Learn More

BBC News, ‘Church of England Formally Approves Plans for Women and Bishops’

Fabiana Barticioti, ‘Archive of the Movement for the Ordination of Women’ (LSE History, 1 December 2016)

The Independent, ‘Church of England Shatters ‘Stained-Glass Ceiling’ by Allowing Female Bishops’

R v Nimmo and Sorley [2014]

R v Nimmo and Sorley [2014]

Colour photo of woman's hand holding an iphone with a laptop on a desk in front of her

R v Nimmo & Sorley gave prominence to online misogynist abuse and the harm it inflicts on its victims. It brought the issue of gender based online abuse into the mainstream. The visibility of women, and the visibility of women suffering for their efforts in campaigning for the recognition of women is a legacy attributable to this case.

Kim Barker

R v Nimmo & Sorley [2014] changed the perception of social media offences in England and Wales. The decision in this case followed a short – but significant – period whereby social media abuses such as trolling, and harassment were prevalent but often remained outside of the focus of the criminal law. It saw the first custodial sentences imposed for sustained abusive messages made via social media platform Twitter to two women – Caroline Criado-Perez and Stella Creasy – during a campaign against the replacement of the only woman (Elizabeth Fry) to appear on English banknotes with a man (Winston Churchill).

Colour photo of the unveiling of Elizabeth Fry on the £10 note
The New £10 Note Unveil Event from Bank of England [CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 (]
The case is significant not only in the development of prosecutions for social media offences, but also because it is the first judgment issuing custodial sentences for abusive social media messages against women. Additionally, it was the first decision handed down under the revised guidance on social media prosecutions from the Director of Public Prosecutions issued in light of Chambers v DPP.

The full version of this landmark is written by Kim Barker.

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CPS, ‘Hate Crime: What is a Hate Crime?’

Ruth Lewis, Michael Rowe, and Claire Wiper ‘Online Abuse of Feminists as An Emerging Form of Violence Against Women and Girls’ [2016] The British Journal of Criminology


Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007

Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007

Colour photo of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on the Right to Choose campaign from the Forced Marriage Unit
Forced Marriage Unit Videos from Foreign and Commonwealth Office [CC BY 2.0 (]
The introduction of the Forced Marriage (Civil Protection) Act 2007 marked a ground-breaking moment in the history of black and minority ethnic (BME) women’s struggles in the UK, against violence against women and for equality. It represented the culmination of BME women’s struggles against the powerful multicultural precept that legal and other state responses to the needs of BME women should be guided by cultural relativism rather than by secular, universal human rights norms and standards on gender equality. And, it signalled a human rights-based approach to all forms of gender-based violence against BME women who otherwise remained invisible in the social contract that had been forged between the British state and its minorities.

The full version of this landmark is written by Pragna Patel.

Learn More

BBC News, ‘Laws in the UK: Forced Marriage Act’

Emma Franck-Gwinnell, ‘Forced Marriage: Is It A Human Rights Question?’ (Human Rights News, Views and Info, 1 September 2016)

Southall Black Sisters, ‘The Forced Marriage Campaign’

Mental Capacity Act 2005

Mental Capacity Act 2005

Finding a way to achieve the right balance between supporting disabled people’s autonomy whilst continuing to provide an appropriate level of protection for vulnerable people is the next big challenge in mental capacity law. The Mental Capacity Act 2005 has put England and Wales in a strong position to rise to that challenge, but we may well need to build another landmark to get us there.

Rosie Harding

The Mental Capacity Act 2005 (MCA), which applies in England and Wales, makes legal provision for a wide range of people (family members, health and social care professionals, courts) to make decisions in the best interests of a person who lacks the capacity to make a decision for themselves (section 3). It applies to anyone who has impaired decision-making capacity as a result of ‘an impairment of the mind or brain’ (section 2).

Colour photo of three women in business suitsThe Act has made a great deal of difference to the lives of women with intellectual and psychosocial disabilities. The statutory presumption of capacity means that those who seek to override the wishes of disabled people must first prove that they lack capacity to make their own decisions. The focus in the MCA on the least restrictive option has ensured that fewer disabled women are subjected to sterilisation procedures.

The full version of this landmark is written by Rosie Harding.


Learn More

Ezgi Tascioglu, ‘Exercising Your Right to Legal Capacity (Easyread)’ (Everyday Decisions, 12 May 2017)

Ezgi Tascioglu, ‘United Nations Looks at Disabled People’s Human Rights in the UK’ (Everyday Decisions, 9 March 2017)

Rosie Harding, ‘What is Legal Capacity? Infographic (Easyread)’ (Everyday Decisions, 29 March 2017)

St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust v S [1999]

St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust v S [1999]

The legacy of St George’s Healthcare NHS Trust v S is the clear statement that a pregnant woman is not be treated as incapable of making a decision simply because she chooses something that many would judge to be misguided, or even immoral. It insists that we are vigilant in ensuring that women are not silenced or side-lined within their own experiences of pregnancy and childbirth.

Annapurna Waughray, Kay Lalor and Anne Morris

Colour photo of a newborn baby in hospital yawningAlthough the case of St George’s Health Care NHS Trust v S reiterates general principles of patient autonomy and self-determination, it is of special significance for women because of its unequivocal affirmation that a competent pregnant woman can refuse medical treatment even if that refusal may result in harm to her or the foetus. It also establishes that mental health legislation cannot be used to prevent a competent pregnant woman from exercising this right.

The full version of this landmark is written by Annapurna Waughray, Kay Lalor and Anne Morris.


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The Independent, ‘Law Report: 12 May 1998; Pregnant Woman was Entitled to Refuse Caesarian’

Lesley MacDonagh

Lesley MacDonagh

Colour photo of Lesley MacDonagh
Lesley MacDonagh

In a sector known for its macho, long-hours culture, the appointment of a woman as managing partner of a top 10 law firm in 1995 was striking. The successes of Lovells during MacDonagh’s time as managing partner are proof (if such proof was ever needed) that a woman can lead an elite law firm. And lead it well. MacDonagh’s life away from the office evidence that it is also possible (as a woman) to combine a family with elite law firm management (such a combination seeming to be a given for men in law firms).

Steven Vaughan

In 1995, Lesley MacDonagh (1952- ) was appointed as the managing partner of Lovell White Durrant (now Hogan Lovells), the first time that a woman had been chosen to lead a top 10 law firm in England & Wales. At the time of her appointment, the firm comprised 1400 partners and associate lawyers spread across nine offices in Europe and Asia. By the time Ms MacDonagh stepped down as managing partner, 11 years later, Lovells had doubled in size, due mostly to its merger with German firm Boesebeck Droste that MacDonagh led at the beginning of the millennium. She was voted ‘Legal Business Managing Partner of the Year’ for the year 2000.

The full version of this landmark is written by Steven Vaughan.

Learn More

eFinancialCareers Ltd., ‘Day in the Life: Lesley MacDonagh, Managing Partner, International Law Firm’ (22 April 2002)

The Independent, ‘First Woman Among Equals’

The Law Society Gazette, ‘Glass Ceiling Shattered— Lesley MacDonagh the First Woman to Become Managing Partner of a Top Ten City Firm’ (8 February 1995)

Foundation of the Association of Women Barristers (1991)

Foundation of the Association of Women Barristers (1991)

Over the years, the Association of Women Barristers has been involved in every major consultation and advance in equality and diversity which has benefited not only women barristers but also men at the Bar.

Frances Burton


Colour photo of the Royal Courts of Justice
The Royal Courts of Justice by Ronnie MacDonald [CC BY 2.0(]

Unlike the Association of Women Solicitors, with its origins in the period immediately before and after the 1919 Act, the foundation of the Association of Women Barristers in 1991 came about as the result of an initiative of a group of Common Law and Chancery women barristers. They called a meeting to discuss the concept of an association which would provide mutual support to women in all sectors of the Bar, and to lobby for some of the equality and diversity measures that were significantly lacking in the profession generally. The Association’s first Chairwoman was Jennifer Horne-Roberts. Over the years, the Association has been involved in every major consultation and advance in equality and diversity which has benefited not only women barristers but also men at the Bar.

The full version of this landmark is written by Frances Burton.


Learn More

Fiona Jackson, ‘Association of Women Barristers’ (Counsel

Hilary Heilbron, ‘Women at the Bar: An Historical Perspective’ (Counsel

Jennifer Jones, ‘Mentoring Minutes for Inspiring Women’ (Counsel

Sarah Mercer, ‘Snapshot: Women at the Bar’ (Counsel, October 2015)

Elizabeth Butler-Sloss

Elizabeth Butler-Sloss

She chose to turn her status as an outsider – by virtue of her gender – into a strength rather than a weakness. Making something unusual, like being the first woman on the Court of Appeal, look utterly normal is her legacy to future generations of women lawyers. And is something that might resonate more in the future that it was appreciated in her day.

Dana Denis-Smith

Baroness-Butler-SlossIn 1988, Elizabeth Butler-Sloss became the first woman to be appointed to the Court of Appeal of England and Wales. Hers was a speedy rise, after less than a decade as a High Court judge. It was also an historic one; she was – at the time – the highest-ranking woman judge in the country, a position she held until Lady Hale’s appointment to the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords in 2004. Ten years later, in 1998, she became the first woman President of the Family Division, a role she held until her retirement in 2005, and in which she is yet to be followed by another woman. She chaired a number of high-profile government inquiries, including the Cleveland Child Sex Abuse inquiry and the inquiry into the death of Princess Diana, as well as ruling in high-profile children’s rights and capacity cases.

The full version of this landmark is written by Dana Denis-Smith.

Learn More

A conversation with Lady Justice Butler-Sloss:

Profile: Elizabeth Butler-Sloss:

Grant v Edwards [1986]

Grant v Edwards [1986]

George Edwards and Linda Grant had been seeing each other for a couple of years, and had a child together, when they decided to live together and buy a house. Edwards told  Grant that her name would not go onto the legal documents because it would prejudice her pending divorce. The house was brought in the name of Edwards and his brother.Colour photo a person signing documents

After their relationship broke down,  Grant claimed a share in the property on the grounds she had contributed very significantly to the its purchase by means of her contribution to the joint household expenses, housekeeping, feeding and bringing up the children. The judge dismissed her claim and she appealed.

The Court of Appeal held that where an unmarried couple lived in a property held in the name of only one of the parties, the other party could establish an interest if they could demonstrate a common intention that they would share which they had relied upon to their detriment. The Court found that the statement as to why her name was not on the documentation showed the common intention and that she was entitled to a half share in the house.

The decision was a landmark as the courts found that there was an actual common intention between the parties to share ownership of the property, without such an intention being declared formally in writing.

Joanne Beswick

This marked a shift in judicial thinking about the way in which justice should be done to women in this increasingly common situation, not by changing the law, but by interpreting it more equitably and taking into consideration a wider variety of discussions and contributions regarding the household.

The full version of this landmark is written by Joanne Beswick.


Learn More

Office for National Statistics, ‘Marriage, Cohabitation and Civil Partnerships’

Office for National Statistics,’Women Shoulder the Responsibility of ‘Unpaid Work”  

Telegraph Media Group Ltd., ‘Household Chores to be Given Economic Value’ 

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Project leaders, Rosemary Auchmuty and Erika Rackley, talk to Elizabeth Woodcraft about the aims, methodology and ambitions for the Project for PodAcademy

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