The Welsh legislature needs a new statute book that lay people can read, rather than the present much-amended version that ‘no sensible person would want’, the lord chief justice told Welsh lawyers last week.

Sir John Thomas (pictured) said proper access to justice requires ‘good and properly drafted law’ in a ‘codified system’ that is easy to amend. It was ‘not sensible’ to follow the Westminster parliament’s route, but better to make a ‘new beginning’, he told the 2013 Legal Wales Conference in Cardiff last Friday.

The Welsh judge said his ‘vision’ for Wales’ future includes a body similar to the European Law Institute, which makes recommendations and provides practical guidance in the field of European legal development. A similar body overlooking the development of Welsh law would help avoid clashes with English common law, he said.

‘The sure way to build Wales’s stature as a jurisdiction to rival London is to ensure that all Welsh cases are heard in Wales,’ he said. ‘The Court of Appeal should sit in Wales, as should other higher courts and tribunals.’

Sir John commended the work of the judiciary, practitioners and academics in contributing to the rapid pace of transition towards devolution. They had ‘accomplished huge changes’, he said, and now was the time to ‘look forward 20 years’ to the challenges and achievements that lie ahead.