The Judiciary and Civil Liberties

The Political role of the Judiciary

  • Dispensing Justice- implies that all citizens should be treated equally under the law and that law is applied to them in a fair way.
  • Interpretation- there will be cases where judges come into conflict with the law and therefore would need to interpret it.
  • Creating case law- similarly it is not always clear how the existing laws are to be applied in a particular case and it is for judges to choose how the law should operate in specific circumstances.
  • Declaring common law- this is law which has developed solely by tradition e.g. inheritance.
  • Judicial Review- a process whereby the courts review decisions made by the state or any other public body in relation to its citizens. Where a court see's that a citizen has been treated unfairly, they can set aside the decision.
  • Public Inquries- judges are often called up to conduct public inquries into matters of widespread concern.
  • External Jurisdiction- settling matters to do with the Welsh, Scottish and Northern irish Assemblies.
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The Judiciary and Civil Liberties

  • Sentencing issues- sentencing in criminal cases

The legal and constitutional environment of the judiciary

  • The sovereignty of Parliament, rule of law, judicial precedent and primacy of EU law.
  • The independence of the Judiciary is important: if they are not independent there is a danger government will exceed its powers, citizens need to feel certain that any legal cases with which they have become involved with will be dealt with on the basis of justice and rule of law, judges are sometimes specially selected by government.
  • The independence of the judiciary is maintained through security of tenure, contempt of court and appointments and all senior judges have experience as lawyers.
  • Independence is threatened- the fact that the Lord Chancellor is head of the court system and he is a major political figure, in recent years politicians have come into political dialogue with the judges, appointmental decisions essentially made by PM and 12 senior law lords sit in the House of Lords.
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The Judiciary and Civil Liberties

  • Judicial neutrality- the principle that members of the judiciary should avoid allowing their political ideas to affect their decisions.
  • Lack of neutrality- narrow social and professional background, seats in the House of Lords.
  • Neutrality maintained- implementation of HRA and social composition has changed.
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