Sir John Thomas will become the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales from today, following the retirement of The Rt Hon The Lord Judge yesterday.
A peerage of the United Kingdom for Life has been conferred on the Rt Hon Sir Roger John Laugharne Thomas upon his appointment in recognition of the contribution that he has made to law and justice reform.
Sir John was appointed a Judge of the High Court of England and Wales in 1996 and was assigned to the Queen's Bench Division and to the Commercial Court. From 1998 to 2001 he was one of the Presiding Judges of the Wales and Chester Circuit. He was Judge in Charge of the Commercial Court in London from April 2002 to July 2003, when he was appointed as a Lord Justice of Appeal.
He has been a member of the Judges' Council since 2002 and was the Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales from 2003 to 2006. From 2008 to October 2011 he was Vice-President of the Queen's Bench Division, becoming President of the Queen's Bench Division in October 2011. He has been Deputy Head of Criminal Justice since 2008 as well as judge in charge of European issues from 2007 to 2011. Sir John was President of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary from May 2008 to December 2010.
The retirement of the Rt Hon Lord Judge was announced earlier this year. Lord Judge was the first Lord Chief Justice in recent years to come from a criminal law background. He was called to the Bar in 1963 at Middle Temple and took Silk in 1979. In 1988 he was appointed a Judge of the High Court (Queen's Bench Division), was promoted to the Court of Appeal in 1996 and became the first President of the Queen's Bench Division in 2005. From 1993 until 1996 he was Presiding Judge for the Midland Circuit, Senior Presiding Judge for England and Wales from 1998 until 2003 and Deputy Chief Justice of England and Wales from 2003 until 2005. Lord Judge was appointed as Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales in 2008.
Lord Judge said:
"I welcome the appointment of Sir John Thomas as Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales. I am grateful to the Judicial Appointments Commission for the painstaking care which has been taken to analyse and assess an enormous body of material bearing on their recommendation. The selection panel was totally independent of the Executive and was constructed in accordance with the legislation now in force. It consisted of the Chairman of the Judicial Appointments Commission, two lay Commissioners and two senior judges.
Sir John said:
"It is a privilege and honour to succeed Lord Judge as Lord Chief Justice and Head of the Judiciary of England and Wales. He has made not only an outstanding contribution to the development of the law, but has guided the judiciary over the past 5 years through times of great change. He is universally admired for his deep commitment to justice, the independence of the judiciary and the outstanding leadership he has given to all judges and magistrates.
"It will be a hard task to follow such a great Chief Justice, but I will endeavour to maintain confidence in the judiciary, its reputation and its high standards of integrity and impartiality. Although in a time of reduced resources significant change must continue, the judiciary will play its leading part in ensuring that justice is delivered fairly and efficiently. It will continue to become more reflective of our diverse society. It will also continue to play a constructive role in its relationships with Government, Parliament and the media, but with the tensions that are inevitable in maintaining the rule of law, the independence of the judiciary and the rights of individuals."