March 29, 2017

Attacks on judges 'undermine rule of law': United Kingdom court chief

17 February 2017, 01:23 | Taylor George

John Stillwell PA Archive Lord Neuberger and his colleagues at the Supreme Court rejected a Government appeal against the ruling last month

John Stillwell  PA Archive
Lord Neuberger and his colleagues at the Supreme Court rejected a Government appeal against the ruling last month

The decision came after some United Kingdom newspapers criticized a lower court decision, saying the judges had no place meddling with the result of the referendum.

He did not single out any newspapers, but is presumed to have been referring to headlines such "The judges versus the people" in The Daily Telegraph and "Enemies of the people" in the Daily Mail.

The Supreme Court has today kicked off the search for two new justices plus a new president of the court.

'After the [High] Court hearing, I think they could have been quicker and clearer. "They were faced with an unexpected situation from which, like all sensible people, they learned", he said.

A prominent lawyer has defended Lord Neuberger's accusation that sections of the media "undermined the rule of law" in the wake of the High Court's decision on the triggering of Article 50.

The Supreme Court chief later upheld the decision after the PM unsuccessfully appealed to the country's top court.

Lord Neuberger said politicians did not speak out quickly or clearly enough and some media attacks had been unfair.

The pair squabbled as the former Ukip leader criticised a High Court judge for making his personal opinion known surrounding the ruling.

He said: "Yes, the independence of our judiciary is crucial..."

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The president of Britain's Supreme Court on Thursday slammed media attacks on judges after a legal challenge to Brexit, and criticised politicians for not rushing to their defence more quickly.

Defending the media's role, Lord Neuberger said he accepted that "most of what was said, even if I didn't agree with it or think it was fair, was well within the ambit of what a reasonable press could do".

"The rule of law together with democracy is one of the two pillars on which our society is based", said Lord Neuberger, who retires in September.

His fellow judges will be quietly delighted that he has expressed his views on what they saw as an unfair attack on their independence and the rule of law... but they won't say that publicly.

"I wouldn't criticise them, save to the extent that undermining the judiciary for no good reason is no good for the rule of law".

The vacancies have arisen because of the retirement of Lord Toulson a year ago, and the impending retirements of Lord Clarke and current court president Lord Neuberger.

Applications will close on 10 March.

They will take up office at the beginning of the new legal year in October.

His comments were last night widely interpreted as a slap down of Justice Secretary Liz Truss, who had no legal background before being appointed to the job by Theresa May last July.

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