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It now looks even more likely our next Lord Chief Justice will be a woman

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Front-runners’ chances scuppered because they’re too old to apply

Lady Justice Sharp

The Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) has thrown a spanner in the works today, unexpectedly revealing that only those 65-years-old and younger can apply to be the next Lord Chief Justice.

Applications are now open to replace the Lord Thomas, who is set to retire this autumn. Today, the JAC posted the Lord Chief Justice person specification, which states:

Notifications of intent to apply are invited from candidates who are able to serve for at least four years before retirement.

This has really mucked up previous bench predictions. Legal affairs commentator Joshua Rozenberg put his money on Lady Justice Hallett and Sir Brian Leveson back in January. At 67-years-old, both have now been ruled out.

That said, 61-year-old Lady Justice Sharp, vice-president of the Queen’s Bench Division, is still in the running. With much of her competition now ruled out, it looks like she’s even more of a front-runner to bag the top judicial role.

Though this news may delight some, the introduction of this age limit has really stumped others. Bob Neil MP, who chairs the House of Commons’ Justice Committee, has described the criterion as “needlessly restrictive and rather arbitrary”.

He has called on the chair of the JAC to explain why it’s been included. This is Lord Kakkar, a professor of surgery at University College London who will this year also oversee a number of appointments to the Supreme Court.

The JAC has, however, already provided an explanation (screenshotted below). Rozenberg has described it as not even “remotely convincing”.

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