Lord Justice Wall’s appointment as president of the High Court Family Division was finally announced by Downing Street this morning. Far be it from me to suggest that the Jack Straw took any notice of my suggestion at the weekend that he would risk losing what little respect he had among family judges and lawyers unless he ensured that Sir Nicholas Wall was named as president before Easter.
But the Lord Chancellor could hardly leave it any later, given that today is the last day that Sir Mark Potter is sitting as president and that the Prime Minister is expected to call the election immediately after Easter.
Although the right man got the job in the end, the whole episode has done real and lasting damage to judicial independence. It is not just that Wall has been denied the handover period necessary in any job — and especially one of this complexity. It is that Straw has made his displeasure at Wall’s selection clear for all to see.
If Straw had any reason for blocking Wall’s appointment, he should have said so. If he had not, he should not have delayed it. The incoming government should limit the Lord Chancellor’s powers in this area as a matter of urgency.