Bingham makes the grade

The new Lord Chief Justice, Sir Thomas Bingham, is tipped to be as outspoken a defender of judicial independence as his predecessor.

Bingham, former Master of the Rolls, is to become Lord Chief Justice next month. Lord Woolf, currently a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary, will take over as Master of the Rolls.

Bingham, 62, succeeds Lord Taylor who steps down on 4 June. He leaves at a time when relations between the judiciary and Government are fraught.

Lord Taylor used his final speech in the Lords last week to launch a vociferous attack on the Government's plans for tougher sentencing. Opposition from the Lords could wreck Howard's sentencing plans.

Bingham is reputed to be as unwilling to bow to government policy as his predecessor.

Addressing the Association of Liberal Democrat Lawyers last week, he called for laws to protect an individual's right to privacy. He also warned that if the Government failed to legislate the courts would act.