A Visitation: The Visitor Visits

9th November 2023

St Hilda's College receives a visit from Baroness Butler-Sloss

A College Visitor is a person who holds a position of authority and oversight within an individual college. The role of a College Visitor typically varies from college to college, but it is a senior figure who ensures that the college operates in accordance with its statutes and that its governance and administration are functioning correctly.

The Visitor is often an external figure, such as a bishop, judge, or other prominent individual, and they have the authority to intervene in college affairs if necessary.

St Hilda's College Visitor is Elizabeth Oldfield Butler-Sloss, Baroness Butler-Sloss.

Elizabeth Butler-Sloss, known for her pioneering legal career, had a unique upbringing as the fourth child of parents born in 1889. Despite a secluded childhood, her father's progressive views and support enabled her to pursue a career in law. She entered the bar in 1955 when women represented just 3% of barristers. Despite challenges, including solicitors' initial reluctance to hire her due to her gender, Butler-Sloss built a successful career. She became a divorce registrar at the age of 36, taking her father's advice to secure a job that allowed her to balance work and family.

Butler-Sloss's pivotal moment came when she was promoted from registrar at Sun Street House to the High Court, marking an unprecedented advancement. Her notable career milestones include leading the Cleveland Child Abuse Inquiry, chairing the inquests into Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed's deaths, and presiding over the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse in 2014.

Retiring as President of the Family Division in 2005, she continued her public service as a crossbencher in the House of Lords. Her areas of expertise include children's issues, legal matters, and family law, reflecting her dedication to advocating for families and improving family law.

Throughout her career, Butler-Sloss displayed a remarkable commitment to challenging roles and responsibilities, responding with a resounding "yes" when called to serve.

Baroness Butler-Sloss continues to serve as our Visitor, and attended Governing Body, before meeting with representatives of the JCR and MCR. After a short breather meeting SCR members, it was time for the Principals Research Lecture: Foreign Law? In English Courts?! where Dr Johannes Ungerer illuminated the ways in which English courts determine the applicable foreign law, and some of the complications therein. 

“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my visit and there were a number of highlights. One was seeing the anniversary building and also seeing the pavilion, which I hadn't ever been in before—both of which are extremely impressive. I was delighted to see them. The other thing was talking to the president of the JCR and vice president, the president of the MCR and his vice president. I found some amusement in the fact that both of them were American. We had a tremendous discussion on all sorts of subjects, including the American Supreme Court, my view as an English lawyer and former judge, and so on. I've had an extremely happy experience. I was made very welcome by the Principal and Vice Principal. I attended the governor's meeting, which I found most interesting, particularly the really quite tricky issues of the Freedom of Speech Act and how that's going to affect this college, as well as, obviously, Oxford. It's been great. I regret that I hadn't been here for two or three years, and I aim to do better with the coming years as long as I remain your visitor.” - Baroness Butler-Sloss