Women lawyers want end to legal secrecy

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The Independent Online

WOMEN BARRISTERS have joined the growing number of lawyers demanding an end to the controversial "secret soundings" used in the selection of judges and QCs.

WOMEN BARRISTERS have joined the growing number of lawyers demanding an end to the controversial "secret soundings" used in the selection of judges and QCs.

The call by the Association of Women Barristers (AWB), whose 550 membership includes a number of QCs, will increase pressure on the Lord Chancellor, Lord Irvine of Lairg, to reform the system.

Last week the Law Society, which represents solicitors, demanded an end to a system that allows mostly barristers and judges to give confidential advice to the Lord Chancellor on the suitability of applicants.

Helene Pines Richman, who chairs the AWB, called for change, saying too many judges were middle-class, public school-educated Oxbridge men.

The AWB's position indicates that the Bar, from where most judges and QCs are drawn, is prepared to join calls for change. An inquiry report by Sir Leonard Peach on the appointments system is expected before the end of the year.