CURSE OF MACKAY; the Man Who Brought You the Divorce Bill and Messrs Scott and Nolan Hasnow Chosen a Pro-European Who Knows Little Criminal Law as England's Top Judge

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HAS the Lord Chancellor - the man behind the doomed Divorce Bill, who also chose the judges in such disasters as the Nolan Commission and the Scott Inquiry - done it again?

This week, as John Major went on the attack against Europe, Lord Mackay is expected to announce his recommendation as successor to controversial Lord Chief Justice Taylor, 66, who is retiring early on health grounds.

And, what do you know! The man almost certain to get the job is Sir Thomas Bingham, 62, currently the Master of the Rolls - a man dedicated to the proposition that European Union law should take precedence over the laws enacted by the Queen in Parliament and the Common Law which has served this country for a thousand years.

`Tom' Bingham has long been convinced that the English legal system is not adequate to defend the rights of the accused. He is part of that fashionable liberal elite which looks automatically to Europe for redress.

On the day he became Master of the Rolls he told the BBC that the need to incorporate the European Convention On Human Rights into English law had never been greater. He was the first senior judge publicly to take this position, which would directly subordinate the English courts to the European Court Of Human Rights - a polyglot body which has produced a series of wildly progressive `anti-British' judgments in recent years.

They include the ruling that the killing by the SAS of three IRA terorists in Gibraltar had been `unlawful'; a ruling which forced the Government to pay their families some [pounds sterling]40,000 in legal costs. The Court has also ruled that the Home Secretary had no right to specify the jail terms to be served by the killers of James Bulger and is eventually expected to rule against this country's ban on homosexuals serving in the Armed Forces.

Three years ago, giving the annual Denning lecture, Bingham was scathing about what he saw as the failures of the historic English system of Common Law. He argued that the many `anti-British' rulings from the European Court proved that Common Law was failing to protect British citizens from an over-mighty state. He also attacked the British Parliament, saying that anybody who saw it as `a reliable guardian of human rights' was `guilty of wishful thinking'.

If we did incorporate the Convention, one thing is certain. The power of the judges and their political role would be greatly enhanced. This is because European law is about judges dealing in great, sweeping principles - rather as the U.S. Supreme Court does - instead of interpreting statute law as narrowly as possible, as British courts have traditionally done.

Bingham is a courteous, quiet-spoken man with impeccable, middle-class credentials. The son of two doctors from Reigate, Surrey, he insists that his views are distinctly middle of the road. But take it with a pinch of salt when he says: `I am not ideologically or temperamentally attracted by the doctrines or attitudes of the extreme Left or extreme Right' - an assertion he made in 1989 when he gave his first interview after the Government allowed judges the freedom to speak out on issues of the day. …