Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine has made Edward Garnier QC an assistant recorder, despite the fact that Garnier has been one of the most vocal opponents of his legal aid reforms.
Garnier is the Conservative Party's legal affairs spokesman and has won acclaim from lawyers and consumer groups for his scathing and forensic Commons attacks on Irvine's reforms.
Garnier follows in the footsteps of Nicholas Lyell QC, Michael Howard QC and Ivan Lawrence QC, Tory MPs who were also appointed assistant recorders while MPs, although Lyell and Howard did not sit while they held political office.
To maintain his assistant recordership, Garnier will have to sit for at least 20 days a year. He said his political duties should allow him to do this: “I wouldn't have applied if I didn't think I could do it,” he said. He said he had applied to the South Eastern circuit to avoid the chance of any of his Leicestershire constituents being jurists while he was presiding.
Garnier may still slip up before his full appointment. He has to attend a residential induction course, visit prisons and “sit in” for at least a week on the bench with a circuit judge who will report to Lord Irvine whether his charge is ready to hear cases on his own.
Garnier was among 63 barristers and three solicitors appointed assistant recorders on the South East Circuit last week.