The Judiciary and civil liberties

AS Government and Politics revision cards

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  • Created on: 30-04-12 14:24

The nature of the judiciary


There are two definitions of the judiciary...

1. All officials involved in the dispensation of justice in the legal system

2. Only judges directly involved in the law making process and politics

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Political role of the judiciary

- Ensuring legal justice is delivered - Citizens being treated equally and the law being applied to everyone in the same way

- Interpreting the meanings of laws

- Deciding how laws should be applied depending on the circumstance. When this happens, judicial precent takes place - similar cases will be dealt with in the same way

- Deciding what the common law is when there isn't a statute law or a common law. Judicial precedent applies again

- Reviewing cases. Usually happens when someone feels they haven't been treated fairly by government or a government agency

- Conducting puclic inquiries

- Deciding on sentencing in criminal cases

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Legal and constitutional environment of the judici

- Parliament is sovereign so cannot be overruled by the judiary

- Judges cannot legally defy the legislative will of Parliament

- Judges can criticise laws and suggest ammendments but they are fundamentally obliged to enforce laws made by Parliament

- The judiciary must apply the principle that all citizens are equal under law

- When judges interpret laws, creates new case law or declares common law, all courts in the future must abide by it. However, a higher court can overturn an interpretation made by a lower court

- Areas of policy that have been transferred to the EU - EU law takes precedence over British law

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Independence of the judiciary

- Healthy democracies need to have an independent judiciary

This is because...

- If judges aren't independent, they may be influenced too much by government. It is dangerous to citizens rights if government power is not kept under control

- A citizen involved in a legal case needs to know that it will be dealt with on the basis of justice and rule of law and not because of any government discrimination. This is also so they feel their rights are protected

- Judges need to be appointed on an independent basis so to prevent collusion between judiciary and government

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Maintaining judiciary independence

Judges are protected by tenure - they cannot be removed from office because of their decisions, only if they are seen to be corrupt. This means they can act independently without the worry that they will lose their position

Government servants are committing a contempt of court if they interfere with court cases by even just commenting on them. This means judges are free of political pressure

Judges are appointed by the Judicial Appointments Commission which is politically independent

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