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Bill allowing judges aged 66+ to apply for Lord Chief Justice post presented today

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Keith Vaz to older judges’ rescue?

Keith Vaz MP will present a bill today which, if passed, will give older judges the opportunity to apply to be the next Lord Chief Justice.

Lawyers were left scratching their heads when the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) revealed prospective Lord Chief Justices would have to be younger than 66-years-old to apply. This is so the next top judge can serve four years in the post, before they reach the statutory retirement age of 70.

Not only was this age limit unexpected, it also ruled out a number of front-runners. Clear favourites Sir Brian Leveson, of phonehacking inquiry fame, and Lady Justice Hallett were knocked out of the race because they’re both 67-years-old. This opened the floor to Lady Justice Sharp, who at just 61-years-old qualified for Lord Chief Justice stardom.

The confusion and annoyance rumbled on into March. Yesterday, speaking before the Constitution Committee, JAC chairman Lord Kakkar was asked who was responsible for imposing the age limit. He seemed to point the finger at Liz Truss.

But before the blame game got fully underway, Vaz has now announced he’ll be introducing a bill to parliament to disregard the age of candidates vying for Lord Thomas’ job. A member of the Justice Select Committee and a former practising solicitor, Vaz said losing talent on the basis of age is “poor practice which hinders the process of finding the best legal minds in a mire of technicalities”. He continued:

If there are concerns that those appointed must serve for a reasonable length of time, exceptions can surely be made to delay retirement until Heads of Division have completed their service.

The bill is scheduled to be presented at 12.30pm today and, in full, reads:

Bill to require those responsible for the selection and interviewing of candidates for, and appointment to, the posts of Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, the President of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court of England and Wales, the Keeper or Master of the Rolls and Records of the Chancery of England and the President of the Family Division of the High Court of England and Wales to disregard the age of applicants under 70 years of age; and for connected purposes.

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