Neutrality of Judiciary

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  • Created by: Francesca
  • Created on: 12-04-14 14:05
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  • Judicial Neutrality
    • How is it maintained?
      • 1. The relative 'anonymity' of senior judges
        • Traditionally operated away from the public eye
        • Until recently, judges rarely spoke out publicly on issues of law or public policy
          • Still expected to avoid being drawn into open deference of their rulings, or criticisms of those in government
      • 2. Restrictions on political activity
        • Judges are not supposed to campaign on behalf of a political party or a pressure group
        • Retain the right to vote however their political views or outlook should not become a matter of public record
      • 3. Legal Justifications of judgments
        • Senior judges generally expected to offer an explanation of how their decision are rooted in law
          • Less likely to be guided by personal bias
        • Accountability
        • Judges are accountable through the right of the party to the proceedings to appeal any judicial decision
          • E.g. Against decisions of judges ruling on challenges by citizens to the decisions of public authorities; for example challenges to decisions of NHS Trusts as to the availability of medicines
      • 4. Training
        • Part of a highly trained profession regulated by the Law Society
          • Commonly served as barristers for many years before taking to the bench
            • Their elevation to the higher ranks would normally reflect a belief that they are able to put any personal bias they might hold to one side when administering justice
        • Lengthy legal training
        • Although security of tenure makes it difficult to remove judges whose neutrality is open to question
          • Additional guidance and training can be required in such cases
    • The principle that members of the judiciary should avoid allowing their political ideas to affect their decision in cases
      • It also implies that judges should not show any systematic bias towards or against any groups in society
    • Threats to judicial neutrality
      • Narrow social and educational backgrounds of judges
        • Most of those appointed to higher tiers of judiciary - privately schooled, Oxbridge-educated, white, middle-class men who are beyond middle age
          • 75% of judges are male and 95% are white
        • How can judges be truly neutral when their own life-experiences are so very different from most of those who are brought before them?
        • There are still very few women or members of ethnic minorities in the senior judiciary.
          • Only one woman has ever been appointed to the Supreme Court since its creation
        • Creation of Judicial Appointments Commission - done little to address this problem
          • Composition of UK Supreme Court - although determined under entirely different procedures, is similarly unrepresentative
      • Politicisation
        • Growing public profile
          • Greater scrutiny by media and general public
          • Due to creation of Supreme Court
        • Increased conflict between senior judges and politicians
        • Drawn into areas of political controversy in the wake of the Human Rights Act 1998
        • The process by which individuals traditionally regarded as being beyond the party political fray are drawn into it
          • By requiring judges to rule on the 'merit' of individual pieces of statute law as opposed to their application
    • Importance
      • Essential requirement of the rule of law
      • Ensures impartiality in the administration of justice
      • Provides protection for the citizen against the power of the state - (as does Judicial Independence)


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