Law Review: Supreme Court to go on ‘Bonfire of The Quangos”? and other law

Supreme court status should not be at risk in ‘bonfire of the quangos’

Guardian: Coalition must safeguard separation of powers and the rule of law when considering status of UK supreme court

The UK Supreme Court blog has pointed out that the UK supreme court is listed as “still to be decided – options being considered” in the quango reform document which was leaked this morning.

But what does this mean? Surely not that the new UK supreme court, after £56m of investment and a successful first year in operation, is for the chop?

Not a chance. The supreme court is the highest appeal court in the land and an integral part of the UK justice system. While the name and venue are new, the court itself is almost identical to the House of Lords committee which it replaced, and most (although not all) consider its new independence from government to be a positive step for the rule of law.

What may be under consideration is the team which runs the court. The 2005 Act of Parliament which created the court states that the Lord Chancellor “must” appoint a chief executive, and “may” appoint officers and staff of the court. At present, the court has 10 executive staff, in addition to around 30 other staff.

It is, surely, inconceivable that any government would do away with the United Kingdom’s most important protector of the Rule  of Law and bulwark against the excesses of government.  I am more than happy to parody politicians from time to time – but any attempt to reduce the authority and power of the UKSC would lead us down a very dark path.  Perhaps savings could be made on the trinkets and Supreme Court teddy bears being sold?

Law firms – got yourselves covered for PI insurance? – if not then you may well want to have a look at this….

I did a podcast with Oliver Wharmby of specialists Priest & Co recently – a useful source of information and advice.  They are PI specialists and able to accommodate risks that have still yet to secure a deal with any qualifying insurer.

Lawcast 167: Oliver Wharmby, Priest & Co, on Professional Indemnity Insurance for Solicitors

A selection  of useful articles in Guardian law….

CPS to prosecute online stalkers

Control orders are dehumanising, abusive and should be scrapped

Tweet success awaits the savvy lawyer

Quality of legal aid is as important as access to a lawyer

And from John Bolch at Family Lore…

Family LoreCast #19

This week Natasha and I discuss the speech Is the Family Justice System in need of review?, given by the President of the Family Division Sir Nicholas Wall to the shared parenting charity Families Need Fathers on the 19th September. Topics covered include shared residence, compulsory assessment for mediation in private law children matters, the future of legal aid and McKenzie friends.

You can listen to the LoreCast here.

3 thoughts on “Law Review: Supreme Court to go on ‘Bonfire of The Quangos”? and other law

  1. “It is, surely, inconceivable that any government would do away with the United Kingdom’s most important protector of the Rule of Law and bulwark against the excesses of government. ”

    Is it? To (a) save money and (b) enhance governmental power, this abysmal coalition – (words chosen carefully) – will do anything. [You may have guessed it – the fair wind I was prepared to give them back in May is exhausted.].

    There could be a single final appellate court (i.e. Court of Appeal). Actually, something like this may have been considered over a century ago but was not implemented. See:

    In modern times, there is no practical reason that I can see why any Scottish or Northern Irish appeals ever need to go to London. Indeed, Scottish criminal cases are not appealable to the UK Supreme Court so, in fact, it is not actually a SUPREME court at all.

    Just like New Labour, the coalition are tinkering with the constitution and here is a bit more tinkering which they could do though I hope that they do not.

    Turning to family law, there is no doubt that the whole system requires fundamental review and reform. However, the problems go way beyond those identified in Sir Nicholas Wall’s speech. Nevertheless, he touched on several of the key issues. I will await your comments next week with interest.

  2. Obiter J – I had considered in my mind the possibility that The Court of Appeal could become our final appellate court – leaving Scotland and NI to implement their own across the board…. but rejected it as unlikely under the present government.

    I think this would be a dangerous step to take – if the SC can develop more fully into a Court of Final Appeal in terms of the big legal issues of the day it will become a far more useful bulwark against government excess – and we’ll see a few more Govt ministers on TV saying “how disappointed’ they are with the judgment!.

    The enhancing of government power is, of course, philosphically inconsistent with Cameron’s stated desire to return power to the people. The UKSC is *our* court, independent of government – so very *Big Society* to coin that almost meaningless phrase.

    I see that The Law Commission is *Under Review* also.

  3. I would be very surprised if the closure of the SC were to actually come about so soon after its creation. I was being a little mischievous in my previous post but recalled that had Victorian reforms gone fully ahead then the House of Lords as an appellate court would have been abolished.

    However, the court will doubtless be pressed for some economies. For example, is a 9 judge court really essential to deal with the MPs arguing that they can be tried (if at all) only by parliament? Is the point really all that legally complex? I don’t actually think so.

    Further, the court might begin to take fewer cases and concentrate just on what you have called “the big legal issues of the day” however they might be defined. Nevertheless, the court must remain free to decide which cases it chooses to hear. Political interference in that would be a disaster.

    Also, it would not be as simple as just closing the SC. It would still be necessary to ensure that the “big cases” were properly heard in the CA as well as all the other appeals which that court has to hear – e.g. appeals against conviction / sentence from the Crown Court etc. Thus, the closure of the SC would not necessarily save a vast amount since more would have to be spent on the CA.

    Yes, I noticed that the Law Commission is threatened. I think that it would be a great pity if it were to be axed since it has done sterling work even if much of it has been ignored by the politicians. Again, I suspect that the Commission will be put on a basic diet and fitness regime !! Slimmed down with fewer commissioners and researchers etc.

    Now, if we were not always fighting wars then there could be enough money to do many things. Just a pipe dream however given the desire of British politician’s to play world policeman and to strut and fret their hour uopin the world stage. We simply cannot afford to do that anymore but this argument cuts no ice in Whitehall / Downing Street.

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