Judges at all levels will be allowed to resign and return to legal practice under new proposals announced by the Lord Chancellor this morning (12 September).

Lord Falconer, the Lord Chancellor, launched a consultation paper seeking the profession’s views on safeguards to be introduced to allow judges to leave the Bench and begin practising again.

Falconer said in a statement that the proposals are designed to improve diversity within the judiciary, and that the consultation has been launched as part of a continued campaign.

“Increasing the diversity of the judiciary, particularly the number of women and those from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, remains one of my key priorities. Prohibition on return to practice can act as a real barrier to people considering judicial appointment at an early stage of their career. I want to access the talents of younger lawyers with excellent skills: removing this barrier will offer significant encouragement to them,” said Falconer.

Respondents to the consultation paper are asked whether they would support a five-year ban on former judges conducting written and oral advocacy after leaving the Bench.

The consultation paper also proposes a quarantine period of two years before a former judge can be employed by a firm or individual who has appeared before him either as a litigant or a legal adviser.

The consultation ends on 8 December 2006.