Barrister Sir Terence Etherton has become the first openly gay man to be sworn in as Lord Justice of Appeal.

Sir Terence’s promotion to the position is partially due to a recommendation by the prime minister for his contribution as chairman of the Law Commission.

58 year old Sir Terence, a former Olympic fencer said: “It is a great honour to be appointed to the Court of Appeal.

“My appointment reflects the high standing of the Law Commission, the Government’s legal reform body.

“My appointment also shows that diversity in sexuality is not a bar to preferment up to the highest levels of the judiciary.”

Sir Terence was also the first High Court judge to publicly announce entry into a civil partnership in February 2006.

Ben Summerskill, chief executive of the gay rights group Stonewall, told The Independent:

“This is not before time. People say it doesn’t matter whether the judge is a straight white guy or not because the system is basically fair.

“But what people forget is that the common law has been developed over the years by a group of people with a particular outlook, namely white, heterosexual men from public schools.

“So the idea of what the reasonable man or reasonable point of view may be in legal terms may be very different from someone who comes from a very different background.”

Sir Terence one of only two out gay judges in the High Court.

The other is Sir Adrian Fulford, who became the first openly gay High Court judge in 2002.

Sir Adrian was then elected to the United Nations in 2003 to serve as a judge on the International Criminal Court.