The swift rise of a ‘wonderful role model’ to the UK Supreme Court

Dame Ingrid Simler has impeccable diversity credentials, writes Ben Rigby

Dame Ingrid Simler Photo courtesy of the UK Supreme Court

The appointment of judicial diversity network chair Dame Ingrid Simler as a Supreme Court justice marks the culmination of a successful career as an advocate, head of chambers, judge and champion of diversity.

Simler is only the fifth woman to be appointed to the UK Supreme Court bench since its inception 14 years ago. Her promotion, which was announced on 17 October, follows the retirement of Lord Kitchin last month. Simler was called to the Bar in 1987, taking silk in 2006. She is a tax and employment law barrister, spending her career as an advocate at Devereux Chambers, where she was head of chambers.

Her elevation to the Supreme Court comes 10 years after her first appointment as a High Court judge, when she joined the bench alongside 4 New Square’s Sue Carr QC, who was appointed as Lady Chief Justice earlier this month.

Simler’s rise has been no less swift; she was appointed president of the Employment Appeal Tribunal for a three-year term and was promoted to the Court of Appeal in June 2019.

She brings extensive litigation experience and advice in UK and EU employment law, tax, employee benefits and restrictive covenants and is known for the quality of her appellate work in the EAT and Court of Appeal. That ability made her a favourite silk for City lawyers and FTSE 100 companies.  

Like her successor as head of chambers at Devereux, the late Timothy Brennan KC, she was the ‘Revenue junior’, or junior counsel for the Crown in tax cases. She was also appointed as a Recorder in 2002 and a deputy High Court judge in 2010.

Her diversity credentials are impeccable. The court, which has been criticized for a shortage of female appointments and which has yet to appoint a Black or Asian judge, has acknowledged that more needs to be done to increase the pace of change.

According to the UK Ministry of Justice, women judges make up 42% of the judiciary. In comparison, only 11% of judges are non-white, a lower proportion than that of ethnic minority barristers and solicitors, at 16% and 19%, something the Law Society has actively sought to improve.

Simler has been at the forefront of driving progress to create that change. She was the High Court liaison judge for diversity and chair of the Diversity Committee of the Judges’ Council in 2019. During her days in practice, she was also active with her Inn, Inner Temple, and the Bar Council’s Equality and Diversity committee, becoming chair in 2007.

Lord Reed, president of the Supreme Court, said Simler would “bring exceptional experience and ability to the court following a distinguished career as a barrister and judge. Her experience in employment, tax, public and criminal law will be highly valuable to the Supreme Court and further strengthen us as a world-leading court.”

Simler’s set, Devereux, is mourning the recent loss of head of chambers Timothy Brennan KC, who passed away from cancer last month. Former chambers director Vince Plant also passed away in November 2022.

In a statement on Simler’s Supreme Court appointment, Devereux said: “She has been a wonderful role model in everything she has done both in her professional and judicial careers.” 

Email your news and story ideas to: [email protected]