Lady Hale became the first female President of the Supreme Court and Sir Ian Burnett was sworn in as the youngest Lord Chief Justice for half a century, at the opening of the legal year.

At a ceremony at the Supreme Court, Lady Hale said it was a ‘historic day for the court’. Welcoming the appointment of Lady Black to the 12-strong bench, she said: ‘It’s a particular pleasure to welcome at long last another woman member to the court. I hope it won’t take another 13 years before we have a third, fourth and fifth member of this court.’

Lord Mance was sworn in as the court’s Deputy President and he called Lady Hale’s appointment a ‘first in many ways’.

He said: ‘She was not only one of the first justices of the Supreme Court and its first female justice, but today she becomes our first female president – indeed, the first female to head the UK’s highest court in any of its manifestations at any time.

‘She has been, and is, a role model for many, as well as a tireless promoter of women, as well as other under-represented groups in the judiciary and among lawyers.’

Lord Lloyd-Jones and Lord Briggs were also sworn in as new justices, with Lord Lloyd-Jones also making history by taking his oath in English and Welsh.

In a separate ceremony at the Royal Courts of Justice, Sir Ian Burnett wassworn in as Lord Chief Justice. Aged 59, he took up the position following the retirement of Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, who had been in the post since 2013.

After both ceremonies, Hale and Burnett attended a service in Westminster Abbey to mark the opening of the new legal year.

At her first news conference since taking up the new post, Lady Hale called for more women to be recruited to the country’s top court and vowed to avoid ‘the special place in hell’ for those women who ‘pull up the drawbridge’ behind them.

She also spoke in favour of reforming the divorce laws to remove any need to show fault, and to reinstate legal aid for early legal advice.