In the news: Sir Colin Campbell

March 12, 2004

Sir Colin Campbell, vice-chancellor of Nottingham University, has never been shy of controversy. So his strong criticism of the appointments system for judges, made in his capacity as chairman of the Commission for Judicial Appointment, will come as little surprise to those who know him.

For some time, Sir Colin was regarded as public enemy number one by the National Union of Students, as he led the Russell Group's campaign to persuade the government to introduce top-up fees.

And he was unruffled by widespread condemnation of his decision three years ago to give Nottingham the go-ahead to accept £3.8 million from British American Tobacco to create an international centre for corporate social responsibility.

Sir Colin now appears to have taken like a duck to water to the controversy over proposals to reform judicial appointments, set up Britain's first supreme court and abolish the post of lord chancellor.

Indeed, his claim that the appointments system is slow, opaque and unprofessional is understood to have strengthened ministers' resolve to see through their plans for reform of the constitution despite parliamentary opposition. And it is certain that this week's set-back for the constitutional reform bill, thrown out by the House of Lords, will do little to dilute the impact of Sir Colin's condemnation of the present system.

The government has decided to carry the bill forward to the next parliamentary session but, in the interim, a select committee could be set up to scrutinise it. Sir Colin is certain to be high on the list of people called to give evidence.

Sir Colin is a law graduate of Aberdeen University and lectured in law at Dundee University before becoming professor of jurisprudence at Queen's University, Belfast. Later, he was appointed dean of the law faculty and then pro vice-chancellor at Queen's.

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