Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Criminal legislation & the financial crisis! & judges / politicians relationship

I’m loving judges right now (not that I didn’t before, I hasten to add).

First, Sir Jack Beatson’s incisive comments on forensics and human rights.

Now, this gem from our Lord Chief Justice (whose name is, appropriately, Lord Judge) – emphasis added, with much applause (go see the speech for details of the legislation he recites):

“My second request is one which has been frequently addressed, but so far without success. Can we possibly have less legislation, particularly in the field of criminal justice.

My Lord Mayor, in a rough and ready calculation, it seems to me that if every line of recent criminal justice legislation had been guaranteed by a payment to the Bank of England of £10,000 a line, the credit crisis would have been funded.”

The extract above was from the Mansion House speech which Lord Judge is to give tonight at the Lord Mayor’s dinner for the judiciary.

His first request was the following (particularly as, from 1 Oct 2009, the Lord Chief Justice of the day will no longer have the opportunity to speak in the House of Lords):

“The major constitutional changes which affected the judiciary in June 2003 were proclaimed without so much as the courtesy of a letter or even a telephone call to the Lord Chief Justice. The equally important structural changes of 2007 were proclaimed by a Minister of the Crown in an article in a Sunday newspaper. My Lord Mayor, the Statute of Proclamations was enacted in the reign of King Henry VIII: it was repealed in 1547, presumably after Henry’s death. In our new constitutional arrangements there should, I respectfully suggest, be an understanding that the judiciary should, at the very least be consulted, about proposed constitutional changes which may impact, directly or indirectly, on the role of the judiciary within the constitution. Anything which relates to the mechanics of government is likely to have such an impact.”

He also made the following remarks, relating to the relationship between the judiciary and Parliament, and between Parliament and citizens / voters:

“Even if we have not been consulted, I believe that we are entitled to speak, and there are some who think we have a duty to speak [on issues which affect our constitutional arrangements and the administration of justice]. Some indeed would think that we have a duty to speak…

…I do remain concerned at the possibility of any kind of judicial review of any aspect of the governance of Parliament. Such a process would have the potential to bring the judiciary into conflict with Parliament, and in particular the House of Commons. This would be an unpalatable clash, and dangerous for our constitutional arrangements, and the understandings which enable them to work…

…the judiciary should not be involved in the parliamentary process and that is underlined by this; the ordinary law of the country applies to members of Parliament as it does to everyone else. Responsibility for ensuring that our parliamentary arrangements are satisfactory is vested directly in the High Court of Parliament itself, and it is and should remain accountable, not to the judiciary but to the electorate which, in our democratic process, ultimately hires and fires both the executive and the major legislative body…”

Good on him for speaking his mind so plainly. In a democracy, politicians shouldn’t go around riding roughshod over both judiciary and citizen, passing laws that don’t make sense, when there’s a major financial crisis to deal with.

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