May I recommend this excellent (and fascinating programme) from the BBC. Available, for the moment, on iPlayer.
The Highest Court in the Land – Justice Makers
A very interesting illustration of the principle in my tweet, below, came in the bank overdraft case where the Supreme Court ruled, according to the law governing the Office of Fair Trading, that the OFT could not look into the fairness of bank overdraft charges. Lord Phillips expressed a personal view that it would probably have been a good thing for the OFT to do, but the law precluded this. Lord Phillips did not have freedom to decide that way.
Non-lawyers may not always appreciate, or choose to appreciate, the subtlety of the role of judges (or the restrictions on their freedom to dispense ‘justice’) ……. as was exemplified in the programme when a well known finance and money campaigner (who ought to have known better?) said to the TV cameras that ‘The big institutions of the Law had backed up the big institutions of the banking world”. Judges can’t always deliver fairness….because of precedent and the way our laws are drafted by MPs. MPs, however, can ensure that our laws are fair?
Ah… the joys of the ‘saying’ that we get the governments we deserve.
Without being simplistic… I am, for one, delighted that the TV cameras have captured the views of our Supreme Court Justices on this wonderful film which reveals what we all know… our own imperfections and fallibility.
The narrator concludes: “Those who make the law…should be answerable to the law”. Yes. I agree. Who would not?
Perhaps… Tony Blair and Charlie Falconer, ridiculed for designing the Supreme Court on the back of a fag packet, got this one right: The Separation of Powers and The Independence of the Judiciary ?
Law Book News:
I have decided to start doing regular features on new law books: Here are the new books from Oxford University Press for February 2011