Unit 2, Government and Politics for Edexcel notes on Judiciary and Civil Liberties

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The Judiciary & Civil Liberties:
Branches of government:
There are three branches of government:
1. Executive branch
Makes laws
`The Government'
PM, Cabinet and junior ministers
2. Legislative branch
Promulgation (consents to laws)
Parliament ­ HoC and HoL ­ all MPs from governing and opposition parties
3. Judicial branch
Applies and administers law and justice
Courts and judges
At the highest level, they may wield some political power
In Britain there is a fusion of powers ­ the executive and the legislature
The government is drawn from Parliament, the executive has an absolute majority in the
Until 2005, Lord Chancellor has a key role in all three branches:
Cabinet minister
Speaker of HoL
Head of the judiciary
How does the UK judiciary exercise power?
Judges have the power to... Why is may this be politically significant?
Dispensing Deliver a fair trial with a fair outcome: apply the
justice law fairly
Decide what the law means when the wording Judge is shaping the law (judge-made law)
is unclear Creates a precedent, an interpretation that will be
followed in future circumstances
Creating case Decide how the law applies in a particular Judge-made law; creates a precedent
law circumstance
Declaring Decide what the unwritten traditions mean Judge-made law; creates a precedent
common law
Decided whether a citizen has been treated It ensures that the government doesn't over-step its
unfairly by an public body or if a public body powers and asserts the rights of citizens
Judicial review
acts beyond its legal powers (ultra vires)
Public Hold an investigation into matters of public Judges will make recommendations that may shape future
enquiries concern government policies
Resolve disputes between the UK parliament Judges have the power to decide where political power
and other governing bodies on who has power lies
in cases regarding political disputes

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Decide what punishment to give out No significant impact, but often there is dispute between
politicians and judges over what sentences should be
Roles of the judiciary [with examples]:
Role Description Example
Though not of direct political importance, when a Petty crimes are heard in the
Dispensing crime is committed, the lower courts conduct fair Magistrates' Court, while serious crimes
justice trials and hearing and apply the law in the spirit it are usually heard in the Crown Court
was intended
No matter how…read more

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Limitations of the judiciary:
The sovereignty of Parliament:
Acts of Parliament must be legal
Judiciary cannot ever set aside an Act of Parliament
The judiciary may only recommend a change to the law
The rule of law:
Every citizen is entitled to a fair trial
Justice must be applied fairly to all or if not, the case may go to appeal
Judicial precedent:
Only a higher court is able to overturn an interpretation made by a lower court
When reaching a decision, judges are compelled…read more

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A judicial review was held into whether this infringed their human rights under the
HRA 1998
RESULT = the legislation was not compatible with the HRA, the government amended
the legislation as a result of the decision
Limits on judicial review:
If the government is ruled to be acting ultra vires, it can introduce a new Act of
Parliament which gives it the legal powers necessary
Parliament is sovereign and judges have to respect this principle
E.g.…read more

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More liberal judges have been appointed ­ tend to Judges come from a background as lawyers tend to
favour individual rights over state power have an inbuilt respect for the state
Lord Woolf
Judicial independence:
Judicial independence = the idea that members of the judiciary should not be influenced by
Judicial independence allows judges to:
Hold government in check and prevent tyranny
Protect citizens' rights against discrimination
Judicial independence in the UK:
This safeguards the independence of the
Method: This means...…read more

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Politicians criticising judges
1. Politicians have publically criticised sentencing decisions made by judges
e.g. ­ 2011 Denzel Cassius Harvey was convicted for swearing at police ­ Justice Bean
overturned the conviction: "police are used to be sworn at". MP Phillip Davies called
Justice Bean "rather ridiculous"
2. Politicians have publically criticised protection of rights decisions by judges
e.g.…read more

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They are independent ­ particularly important when the inquiry is investigating actions of
They have expertise and extensive legal experience
Governments choose to hold public inquiries if...
They want to prove no wrong-doing has taken place (may be reluctant if wrong-doing has
occurred: Widgery Report 1972 Saville Report 1998)
They want to resolve a matter in a neutral manner, without political bias
They are pressure into it by the public or the Opposition
Public inquiries have an important political impact:
1.…read more

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Whether newspapers had been using Critical of media ­ Independent body to
unethical methods of getting stories supportive of the regulate press ­ law to force
Leveson (phone hacking etc) government government to protect
Inquiry (Were politicians too close to media? In Cameron is not too freedom of the press
particular Rupert Murdoch?) close to the media New arbitration system
Press acted in an Whistle-blowing hotline
unethical manner
Civil liberties:
Civil liberties = the rights and freedoms which citizens enjoy in relation to law
Traditionally,…read more

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Blair's Labour Party Manifesto 1997 promised to safeguard civil liberties:
1. Freedom of Information Act 2000 (2005)
Citizens have the right to see public documents
HOWEVER documents which `are a matter of national security' or `would damage the
public interest' were not included
E.g. ­ the expenses scandal 2009: Peter Viggers (Gosport MP) claimed £1,600 for a
replica duck house
2.…read more

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The courts have no power to force Parliament to conform(however it is difficult for
Parliament to resist the pressure of an adverse court decision)
Controversial decisions made under the Human Rights Act:
Case Why was this decision seen as controversial?
Campbell v. MGN Ltd (2002) Unelected judges making decision which
Naomi Campbell was photographed leaving a drug rehabilitation unit. restricts freedom of the press
The Mirror published the pictures.…read more


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