The Supreme Court

  • Created by: Q_
  • Created on: 01-04-19 18:34

JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE

  • Judicial independence is the principle that those in the judiciary should be free from political control. 
  • Such independence allows judges to 'do the right thing' and apply justice properly, without fear of the consequences. 
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JUDICIAL NEUTRALITY

  • Judicial neutrality is where judges operate impartially (i.e. without personal bias) in their administration of justice.
  • Judicial neutrality is an essential requirement of the rule of law. 
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HOW IS JUDICIAL INDEPENDENCE MAINTAINED?

1. 'Security of tenure' enjoyed by judges:

Judges are appointed for an open-ended term, limited only by the requriement that they must retire by the age of 75. 

This means that politicians cannot seek to bring influence to bear by threatening to sack or suspend them. (Members of the senior judiciary can only be removed as a result of impeachment proceddings requiring a vote in both Houses of Parliament). 

2. Growing separation of powers:

The downgradimg of the post of lord chancellor and the creation of a new UK Supreme Court enchanced the separation between the senior judiciary and the other branches of government.

Prior to these changes, the Law Lords sat in the House of Lords and the lord chancellor help significant roles in all three branches of government.

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HOW IS JUDICIAL NEUTRALITY MAINTAINED?

1. The anonymity of senior judges:

Judges have traditionally operate away from the public eye. Senior judges are still expected to avoid being drawn into open defence of their rulings, or criticism of those in government. 

2. Restriction on political activity: 

Judges are not supposed to campaign on behalf of a political party or a pressure group. Although judges retain the right to vote, their political views or outlook should not become a matter of public record. 

3. Legal justifications of judgements:

Senior judges are expected to offer an explanation of how their decisions are rooted in law. (In the case of the UK Supreme Court, decisions are published in full on the court's website).

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THREATS TO JUDICIAL NEUTRALITY

  • Judges are 'drawn' from a narrow recruting pool, most of those appointed to the higher tiers of the judiciary being privately schooled. 

Oxbridge educated, white, middle-class men who are beyond middle age. How can judges be truly neutral when their own life-experiences are so different from most of those wgo are brought before them? 

  • Critics point to the way in which senior judges have been drawn into the political fray in recent years, with the suggestion that the pasage of the HRA (1998) has resulted in the politicisation of the judiciary. 
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