With the new Supreme Court to open shortly, I would like to share with you a letter I read in The Law Society Gazette if you haven’t already read it. It is written by Lord Lester QC. Lord Lester deftly brushes aside Lord Neuberger’s warning made some weeks ago about the ‘peril of mucking around with’ the British Constitution by creating a new British Supreme Court
Lord Lester wrote:
Lord Neuberger may be unaware of what gave rise to the pressing need to separate the powers of the law lords from the political branches of government. Before he was appointed to the Chancery Division, there had been cases in which Lord Chancellors, wearing three hats, had acted judicially in highly political cases. There had been instances of law lords entering the political arena by speaking and voting in controversial debates in the lords, even though the senior law lord, Lord Bingham, asked them not to do so. On one occasion a serving law lord moved (but did not vote on) a highly controversial amendment which suited the political convenience of the government of the day.
Lord Lester stated that in a modern democracy this was not acceptable and noted “The European Court of Human Rights had indicated that a lack of separation of powers was a breach of article 6 of The European Convention on Human Rights.” Lord Lester ended his letter “The fact that The Supreme Court will be, and will be seen to be, separate and independent from the government and parliament should be welcomed. That will strengthen the rights of the citizen against the misuse of the powers of the state”
I am not a specialist in constitutional law but have an interest in human rights law and issues – as do many. It seems to me that Lord Lester QC, a noted expert in both of these fields, has put forward a very reasonable point.
On Monday, I talk to Jenny Rowe, the CEO of the new Supreme Court (in a podcast) . I thoroughly enjoyed doing this podcast for The College of Law series “Inside Track”. Jenny Rowe takes us behind the scenes, discussed the building and costs, the facilities and the very open access for members of the public. She also talks about the use of television at the Supreme Court and the new commentaries being written on leading judgments so that the press and others will get a clearer picture of the major decisions being made by the Justices. I’ll publish the link to the podcast as soon as it becomes available on The College of Law website on Monday morning at 9.00 am.