Masters of the Bench
Miss Sheila Cameron CBE QC
Full Title: Miss Sheila Cameron CBE QCCategory: Senior Benchers
Bench Call Date: 27.6.1988
Call Date: 9.7.1957
In 1958, when Sheila Cameron started practice, there was strongly voiced opposition to women at the Bar. Some chambers announced that their policy was simply not to accept women as tenants, or made other excuses; that women were too emotional for the job, there were no separate toilets in chambers, or that a woman would only be a tenant until she married. When Sheila was offered a tenancy, the Senior Clerk told her, ‘This is against my express wishes: I will offer return briefs to the men in Chambers before you, even if they rank lower than you in seniority’.
She was awarded a Harmsworth Scholarship for three years and took up teaching Law at evening classes. She gave free advice at the Mary Ward Legal Centre, with the prospect of being briefed by its resident solicitor to attend various Magistrates’ Courts on behalf of clients.
Sheila was instructed largely in family law for about 20 years, while her two children were growing up. After taking Silk in 1983 she developed a specialist practice in commons and town and village greens, which involved numerous inquiries and courtappearances. She also appeared before many parliamentary committees, promoting or opposing private legislation. Her longest planning inquiry was that into Terminal 5 at Heathrow, which she attended for three years on behalf of nine local authorities.
A major interest has been ecclesiastical law, and Sheila achieved a number of firsts in this field. In 1969, she became the first woman Diocesan Chancellor in the Church of England, on her appointment as Chancellor of Chelmsford; in 1983, she became the first woman Vicar- General of the Province of Canterbury; in 1992, she was the first woman Chancellor of the Diocese of London. In 2001, she was appointed to the Appellate Office of Dean of the Arches, Canterbury, and Auditor of the Chancery Court of York (again, the first woman). From 1983-2009 she was a legal member of the General Synod and drafted legislation and rules.
Sheila received a Lambeth DCL in 2002 and a CBE in 2004. She was Autumn Reader in 2002.