I read with dismay that a legal executive has been appointed as a deputy district judge. David McGrady, president of the Institute of Legal Executives, welcomes the appointment. I do not.

I have been in practice as a solicitor for 41 years, following my father before me, in a firm that has served the community for more than 60 years. Solicitors have shared their profession with the bar for more than 150 years. Entry to both branches has always been stringent, calling for the highest standards in terms of academic and professional training.

I exercised my higher court rights from 1974 onwards with the introduction of the Crown courts. The judiciary has traditionally been selected largely from the ranks of lawyers who have distinguished themselves as advocates.

The public both recognises and relies upon these standards to bring to the bench a degree of excellence founded principally on professional attainment and independent practice. Qualification as a solicitor has always been open to clerks and many eminent members of my profession have travelled that route. However, this unwelcome attempt to ‘dumb down’ the judiciary will only serve to diminish respect for the courts and the judicial process in general. Unsuccessful litigants may be tempted to appeal, feeling that their judicial arbiter was inferior to a judge appointed from the ranks of either solicitors or barristers. I will leave it to others to draw uncomfortable parallels with the expansion of unqualified advocates employed by the Crown Prosecution Service in the magistrates’ courts. Deputy district judge today, High Court tomorrow… a bridge too far?

My comments should not be interpreted as in any way denigrating legal executives. My father and I have relied upon generations of managing clerks, without whom we could not have delivered our service to the community.

David Kirwan, senior partner, Kirwans Solicitors, Merseyside