April 2021 Candidate Bio and Synopsis
The painful detail of gender discrimination in the legal fraternity — from the attitude of clients and colleagues at the Bar to the intimidation suffered at the hands of judges when appearing in front of them — came to the fore during the interview of Advocate Allyson Crutchfield SC.
She talked of how she had struggled for interesting briefs which departed from the norm of marital law when she became an advocate a “ready-made network” and had to rely heavily on pro-deo criminal work to ensure variety in her practice.
According to Crutchfield her experiences of this discrimination has fed her work in developing young female juniors at the Bar and her approach to adjudicating as an acting judge:
“I’ve been overlooked by judges [when appearing in court]… I’ve been intimidated by judges… I try desperately to bring empathy to young female practitioners,” she said, adding that empowering young Black female juniors at the Bar through skills transfers was also important to her.
In her application form Crutchfield had disclosed that one great uncle had been an apartheid-era minister for immigration and “Indian Affairs” for the governments of Hendrik Verwoerd and John Vorster while another had been a judge of the former Appellate Division (now Supreme Court of Appeal) from 1969 until 1981.
Inkatha Freedom Party MP Narend Singh why she had disclosed this information and whether she had been influenced by “any of their policies or thinking”?
Crutchfield said had never met the cabinet minister and that she didn’t hold to those policies he had adhered to and possibly helped formulate since they were “inimical to everything we do, everything we say”.
She did however suggest that the great uncle who was a judge was part of the “liberal wing” of the appellate division and that he inspired he through advising her on the importance of education and by his “ethic of service” since he worked in Bloemfontein while his family stayed in Johannesburg during his time as a judge.
April 2021 Interview: