The Judiciary

AS Government & Politics revision notes on the Judiciary

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Functions of the judiciary

The role of the judiciary is to uphold the law.

Judges must also interpret the law.

The judiciary is (in theory) independent and neutral - which allows judges to perform their designated role in an effective and fair manner.

In practise, the judiciary may also perform a 'political' role (e.g. the Law Lords debate issues in the legislature, and a judge can deem any bill incompatible with the European Convention of Human Rights).

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Judicial independence

"The ability of judges to resist political pressure from the other two branches of government".

Judicial independence is maintained by the fact that judges cannot be easily removed by the government.

In addition, the government does not appoint (or train) judges.

Judges are appointed on basis of ability, rather than their political affiliation. They are also unelected - which frees them from any electoral constraints.

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Judicial independence continued

By convention, judges are free from undue political interference. As such, politicans should not criticise any judge. However in recent years, both Labour and Tory Home Secretaries have criticised judges who pass sentences considered to be "too lenient".

The Prime Minister has also criticised the judicial system for failing to protect the law-abiding majority

It is also claimed that the Lord Chancellor and Attorney General have been pressurised by the Government over certain issues, such as the reluctance to publish legal advice relating to the Iraq war.

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Judicial neutrality

Judges neutrality implies that everyone is "equal before the law", and is maintained by three factors;

1) A judge should avoid any political or personal bias

2) A judge must not benefit personally from the case in question

3) Decisions must be taken on a fair, and impartial, basis

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