Whitehall barrister takes over top mandarin slot at Ministry of Justice

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By Jonathan Ames on

Normally hostile MoJ observers offer warm greeting to ancient university-educated proponent of simplifying legislation


Oxford University-educated barrister Richard Heaton has been appointed as the permanent secretary to the Ministry of Justice.

Legal profession commentators — including those normally hostile to just about every utterance issued from the ministry — have welcomed the move.

Heaton replaces non-lawyer Ursula Brennan, who is retiring.

The lawyer read law at Worcester College Oxford from 1984 to 1987, and then went on to be called to the bar at Inner Temple in 1988.

Heaton joined the Government Legal Service three years later, before transferring to the Department of Constitutional Affairs — the MoJ’s predecessor — in 2004. He rose to director of legal services at the department before moving to a legal role with the Department for Work and Pensions in 2007.

He then did a stint as First Parliamentary Counsel and in August 2012 was appointed permanent secretary to the Cabinet Office.

Two years ago, Heaton launched the “good law initiative”, a government scheme aimed at reducing complexity in legislation.

Heaton placed 91st on the Independent on Sunday’s 2011 “pink list”, a league table of that newspaper’s readers’ views of the most influential lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people.