Not Saussure

March 6, 2007

The Lord Chief Justice fisks Charles Clarke

Filed under: Law, UK — notsaussure @ 1:41 am

Via The Magistrate’s Blog, a very good and thoughtful speech by Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, the Lord Chief Justice, on The Role of the Judge (pdf).

It’s well worth reading, and not just because the use he rather mischievously makes of the former Home Secretary:

as Chairman of the British Maritime Law Association I had intended to talk about the law of the sea. But then something happened to cause me to change my mind. I read an account of the evidence given on 17th January by the ex Home Secretary, Charles Clarke to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution. He raised some very interesting issues, but some of his comments disclosed, so it seemed to me, a fundamental misconception of the role of the judge. And I believe that it is a misconception that is very widely shared. I know it is shared by some close members of my own family.

And it is this. That it is open to a judge to decide a case on the basis of his personal view of the requirements of justice. When he comes to sentence a criminal, he can impose whatever sentence he believes the criminal deserves. When a challenge is made to a decision by government, the judge can if he chooses frustrate the wishes of Parliament by declaring the decision unlawful.

He then goes on to explain, very clearly, what the role and powers of the judiciary actually are, with frequent references to how Mr Clarke misunderstood them then and how he (and, by implication, his successor) continue to misunderstand them.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] Lord Chief Justice on the role of the judiciary and Charles Clarke March 6th, 2007 [hat-tip: Not Saussure] […]

    Pingback by Lord Chief Justice on the role of the judiciary and Charles Clarke « UK Liberty — March 6, 2007 @ 12:42 pm


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