A senior Legal Department lawyer has opted for early retirement after claiming a 'carve-up' at the top cost him the job of deputy solicitor-general. Royston Griffey, 52, president of the Association of Expatriate Civil Servants, said the job had been given to a local with less experience than himself. This was despite the department's claim that all appointments were made on the basis of character, ability and experience. He said the decision had been taken even before the Appointment Board had met to examine applications. 'It's a matter of principle and honour,' said Mr Griffey, who added he had previously indicated he would stay until 2004. The name of the man appointed to replace Deputy Solicitor-General Robert Alcock, who is being moved to a new post in an administrative reshuffle, has not been announced. However, Mr Griffey said he had risen through the department on fast-track schemes the association was challenging in court. The British-born lawyer, who celebrates 17 years in the Hong Kong civil service this weekend, said the Legal Department always claimed to be a meritocracy, but he now saw its appointments were fixed. The Legal Department would not comment on the allegations last night. 'I'm sad to be leaving the Government in these circumstances. But I feel there's no choice, given how this so-called meritocracy works in practice,' said Mr Griffey, who plans to return to Britain when his retirement begins next March. 'I shall have no job lined up and no accommodation. 'It means many thousands of pounds in lost salary. It's quite a sacrifice. But I felt I had to.'