I have learnt from a reliable source that Theresa May’s plans to appoint two highly qualified women judges on the short list to chair the Child Sex Abuse inquiry have been blocked by Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, Lord Chief Justice.
She originally wanted Lady Hale, who is deputy president of the Supreme Court or Lady Hallett, a senior court of appeal, as a preferred candidate for the post.
Lady Hallett turned down the post previously as it is likely to sit for five years and she is a potential candidate for the lord chief justice’s job in the future.
Lady Hale may have been more interested but the lord Chief Justice is not keen to spare Supreme court judges because of the growing case load of the court.
I understand however that Lord Thomas has told colleagues that he wants no serving judge to chair the inquiry. Evidently the controversy surrounding the inquiry panel and its appointments has made him think the judiciary should steer well clear of it.
He may well have been influenced by a confidential report from Sir Stanley Burnton,the retired judge who resigned from the Daniel Morgan panel, which is thought to have raised a series of issues about the running of independent panels.
The lord chief justice is within his rights to refuse to allow a serving judge leave to chair an inquiry as he is responsible for the efficient running of the bench.
But he could not stop a retired judge being approached or if a serving judge felt so strongly that he or she decided to resign the bench to chair the inquiry.
But his decision has restricted the choice Theresa May has in finding a suitable candidate to met her own self-imposed dealing of announcing a chair by Friday. There must be further developments soon.