Lord Dyson quits as Master of the Rolls

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By Thomas Connelly on

Country’s most senior civil judge has heavily criticised both cuts to legal aid and court costs


The most senior civil judge in England and Wales has decided to call it quits. Master of the Rolls, Lord Dyson, will step down at the end of July of this year according to newspaper reports.

Dyson — who will bow out as he celebrates his 73rd birthday — could have continued in the role for a further two years.

Educated at a Leeds-based grammar school, Dyson went on to study classics at Wadham College, Oxford University. Called to the Bar at Middle Temple in 1968, Lord Dyson — or simply John at that time — was a member of London’s Keating Chambers, taking silk in 1982.

Appointed to the High Court in 1993, Dyson worked his way up the judicial ladder, becoming a Justice of the Supreme Court in 2010.

Landing his current role as head of civil justice in 2012 — a position once held by law school favourite Lord Denning — Dyson replaced Lord Neuberger, who switched roles to became President of the Supreme Court.

Despite a reserved demeanour on the bench, Dyson increasingly became a vocal opponent to both cuts to legal aid and rising court fees.

Speaking at justice select committee in 2014, the top judge slammed government cuts to legal aid. With litigants left to fend for themselves — unable to afford a lawyer — he warned MPs that winnable cases were being lost.

At a CILEx bash last year, a sceptical Dyson contemplated further legal aid cuts. “Frankly I think one needs quite a lot of imagination to think what further cuts there may be,” he told legal execs.

Fast-forward to just last month and Dyson was having a pop at the government again. Attending yet another select committee meeting, Dyson blasted MPs for not considering the “real dangers” of enhanced civil court fees. Referencing the recent fees increase of 10%, the Master of the Rolls described the government’s actions as making a “bad situation” worse.