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Left-wing QC joins judiciary

The judiciary has moved another step from its traditional conservative base with the latest senior appointments, which include the promotion of the leading left-wing barrister Stephen Sedley QC, to the High Court, writes Heather Mills.

His appointment, following last week's announcement of the elevation of Sir Harry Woolf, bringing an unprecedented 'liberal' balance to the House of Lords, is seen as a breath of fresh air to a body criticised for being the preserve of the Establishment. Senior barristers and judges yesterday agreed that Mr Sedley was one of the country's finest advocates.

Some commentators questioned whether the sweep of appointments was designed to head off criticism before the Royal Commission reports on the criminal justice system next year. There is concern that the judiciary is remote and appointments lack public scrutiny.

Michael Mansfield QC, said: 'I hope they are not trying to pre- empt any kind of substantial reform by indicating that they are already putting their house in order by appointing a different calibre of judge.'

Mr Sedley, 52, who belonged to the Haldane Society of socialist lawyers and the National Council for Civil Liberties, has been involved in many high-profile cases and inquiries, from the death of Blair Peach and the Carl Bridgewater murder trial to the contempt hearing against Kenneth Baker, then Home Secretary.

The Lord Chancellor has also promoted High Court judges, Sir David Hirst, Sir Simon Brown, Sir Anthony Evans, Sir Christopher Rose and Sir Leonard Hoffmann to the Court of Appeal; and John Lindsay QC, Christopher Holland QC, Judge Richard Curtis QC and John Kay QC to the High Court.