By Ray Fleming WHEN Lord Woolf stepped down as Britain's Lord Chief Justice last October he said that he had taken a vow of silence after having remained in his top job longer than usual to see through changes in judicial procedures. However, this week Lord Woolf has broken his vow in order to talk to the BBC Radio 4 programme Law in Action about his concern over government criticism of court decisions and ill-informed criticism of individual judges. He cited the prime minister's reference to one ruling being an abuse of common sense and John Reid's comment that it was inexplicable or bizarre to the general public. He also defended the Human Rights Act against suggestions by Mr Blair that it might need to be reviewed. Although Lord Woolf said he believes that tension between the judiciary and the government is healthy, it is unlikely that he would have decided to speak out so soon after his retirement unless he felt that a serious issue was at stake. Essentially this issue seems to be his belief that ministers should be more careful about making spur-of-the-moment criticisms of judgements which they do not like. Lord Woolf pointed out that judges are easy targets because they cannot anwer back: The government has an open goal, he said. Reading between the lines of what the former Lord Chief Justice said, it seems likely that in retirement he has appointed himself as spokesman for the judiciary when ministers criticise them for doing their job.