The Rule of Law: The Rule of Law, in its most basic form, is the principle that no one is above the law.
Separation of Powers: The vesting of the legislative, executive, and judiciary powers of government in separate bodies
Equality: The state of being equal, especially in status, rights, or opportunities
Rights: a moral or legal entitlement to have or do something
Duties: a moral or legal obligation; a responsibility
The judiciary: The third branch of government, which deals with judging, the law and the law courts. The word ‘judiciary’ is sometimes also used simply to mean ‘the judges
Judicial Independence: The freedom of the judiciary from interference in its activities by the other two branches of government, the executive and the legislature, and also from pressure exerted by public opinion.
Presiding over court proceedings – make sure that the rules of court procedure are followed properly by both sides in a case
Interpreting and applying the law – interpreting the statutes laid down by Parliament. This subjective interpretation can sometimes lead to conflicts between different judges and ministers
‘Making’ law – While judges can only interpret Acts of Parliament, they effectively determine the nature of common law
Deciding criminal cases – Deciding how long a criminal should serve between a minimum and maximum limit, which varies depending on the crime
Chairing public inquiries and commissions – Judges are used for this role because of their reputation as being independent. This has led to the criticism, however, that the judiciary is becoming increasingly politicised. Examples include the McPherson inquiry (Stephen Lawrence), Saville inquiry (Bloody Sunday), Leveson inquiry (press regulation + standards).
Roles and Powers of the Judiciary
• Judges have the power to interpret statutory. Different judges may interpret the law different from each other, but they must use the same judgment in previous cases and apply them to all other similar cases (Common Law)
• Constitutional conventions forbid MPs and peers from pressuring judges. For example, they may criticise rulings and judicial decisions in Parliament. Therefore, judges’ decisions are almost always simply accepted and not criticized. If they were, they may decide differently according to external pressure.
• Judicial neutrality is intact via political restrictions on judges, legal training and expertise, accountability through appeals systems. They are also not meant to be public figures.
Judges’ powers are checked as they remain independent and neutral. They must be non-partisan. The appointment process helps keep the Judiciary independent, as well as the security of tenure, arrangements for their pay, freedom from criticism, and independence of the legal profession.
• Process by which courts can question (or review) the legality of government or a public body’s actions, if a citizen feels the department has acted wrongly.
• Judicial review is an example of the separation of powers working.
• Without an independent judiciary, this will be difficult…