Ministers have reportedly called for Theresa May to sack the Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary Liz Truss after a series of mistakes and run-ins with the senior judiciary.
The Independent website reported that the change could see the Ministry of Justice broken up and the role of Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary split between two different ministers, but it said the government denied any such plan.
Truss came under an unprecedented attack from the outgoing Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas, in his final appearance before the Lords’ Constitution Committee.
He highlighted that she had ‘wrongly’ announced a national roll-out of reforms to enable adult complainants in rape cases to give pre-recorded evidence. The change in fact related to national implementation of the scheme for child witnesses, with a pilot scheme for adults due to commence.
Thomas said he had had to write to all judges explaining the Ministry’s mistake, which demonstrated its ‘complete failure to understand’ the issues around it.
He added: ‘That is the kind of thing that is very troubling. The Ministry of Justice is under-resourced. They do not have enough people who understand.’
He admonished Truss for failing to defend the judiciary in the face of media criticism following the High Court’s ruling over the Brexit process, in which he and two other judges were branded ‘Enemies of the People’. Thomas said he had been forced to seek police protection.
Truss said it was not for her to tell papers what to write, but Thomas said: ‘She was completely and absolutely wrong. And I am very disappointed. I can understand how the pressures were on in November but she has taken a position that is constitutionally, absolutely wrong.
‘It really is absolutely essential we have a Lord Chancellor who understands her constitutional duty. There is a difference between criticism and abuse, and I don’t think that that is understood.’
A report from the Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments accused Truss of ‘overstepping her powers’ with a proposed hike to probate fees, which it said could be unlawful, and the Commons Justice Committee has raised concerns over her plans for prison reform.
Defending Truss, her predecessor Michael Gove told The Times newspaper she is an ‘asset to this government’ and a ‘reforming justice secretary whose changes are having to be made all on a tight budget’ and will inevitably attract criticism.