Speech by The Right Hon. The Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales
Your year began, My Lord Mayor, with a herald for this great year of anniversaries – bringing the City’s own 1297 reissue of Magna Carta in its own coach to the Royal Courts of Justice. Since then much has been said about Magna Carta. This evening I refer to Magna Carta not only because of the role it has played in your mayoralty, not only because it stands as a symbol of the continuing commitment to equality before the law, to access to justice and the rule of law, but for the purpose of mentioning one oft forgotten clause – clause 45. This demanded of the King that only those “as know the law of the land and [who] will keep it well” be appointed as judges.
There are, of course, some famous historical exceptions. I will not dwell on those. But the demand has been well met, at least up to now. Instead, I should like to consider the judges who try the most important and difficult cases – the judges of the High Court and other senior trial judges such as those that sit at the Central Criminal Court. For, as you have said, my Lord Mayor, this evening is a setting for a debate about the issues of the day and of the future.