Lord Toulson retires today as Supreme Court drops down to 11 judges

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By Katie King on

Temporary 12th justice to come from rolling roster


One of the top judges in the country, Lord Toulson, will be hanging up his robes and retiring from the Supreme Court today.

Roger Toulson has served as a Supreme Court justice since April 2013, and has used his experience as former chairman of the Law Commission to shape the common law for the past three years.

So who will be tasked with filling the Toulson-shaped hole left in the prestigious bench?

Well, for now, no one. Instead, a bank of top judges — known as a ‘supplementary panel’ — will be set up; these judicial bigwigs can sit on an ad hoc basis in the country’s highest appeal court.

Named on this rotating roster is former Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson, Scottish judges Lords Gill and Hamilton, and none other than Toulson himself.

So while Toulson won’t be waving goodbye to all his Supreme Court duties just yet, he still thought it fitting to celebrate his official retirement with a tell-all interview about his time alongside Lady Hale and co.

It actually made for pretty interesting reading. Over at Legal Cheek we were surprised by a few of the things we learned about the Cambridge-educated judge and former commercial barrister. Did you know he broke his school’s record for running a mile, or that he — and we quote — is “hopeless” at tying up his shoelaces?

Weightier reflections for the judicial maestro — who completed his O-levels (now GCSEs) aged 13 and his A-levels at 15 — include his dispirited views on criminal justice. He explained:

I think some aspects of our criminal legal system are rather awful. I am concerned about the size of the prison population. I also have serious concerns about access to justice.

His most memorable Supreme Court case, he said, is Jogee, the criminal law case that changed the doctrine of joint enterprise and sparked undergraduate law syllabus reform.

He will be missed, though it’s not just Toulson that will be retiring from the Supreme Court in the near future. There is a wave of statutory retirement dates coming up in the next few years.

Lord Neuberger’s is in January 2018, soon followed by Lords Clarke (May) and Mance (June). In August, Lord Hughes is due to retire, and then Lord Sumption in December.

It’s for this reason the Supreme Court has decided not to fill Toulson’s space immediately, so recruitment for all these vacancies can be grouped together.

Though Neuberger and friends’ aren’t due to retire for another year and a half, talk has already turned to who is going to replace these judicial VIPs.

Honorary QC and top legal commentator Joshua Rozenberg has already put his stake in the ground: he reckons the likes of Lord Justices Vos, Sales and Ryder and Lady Justices Sharp and Hallett could all be in for a promotion.