Course of History

Judicial Independence

Judicial Independence

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Judicial independence “is basic to the (British) Constitution.” (G M Lewis) and is therefore an important part of the structure of British Politics.

Democratic rights within British society depend on decisions taken within courts. These courts have to remain independent of outside pressure and interference i.e. from the government. Judges at all levels have to be confident that they will not face consequences if they take the government to task over government decisions. The independence of judges is secured by:

While in office they behave in a professional manner; if they maintain the highest of standards in all areas, they cannot be touched by the government if they come to a decision that is against a government act (as with Michael Howard and the Jamie Bulger killers)
Those in the judiciary are paid out of the Consolidated Fund so that they are free of annual parliamentary criticism, which might be used to mould future judicial decisions.

If the judiciary supports a government act and this acts backfires for whatever reason (in 2002 it would probably be a European Court ruling that takes precedence over a British court decision), the judiciary is free from liability - the government would take the flak and not the judiciary as the act was initiated by the government and not the judiciary. They would argue, with accuracy, that they simply enforce the law but that it is Parliament that creates that law.

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    Judicial independence "is basic to the (British) Constitution." (G M Lewis) and is therefore an important part of the structure of British Politics. Democratic rights…