UK Supreme Court is Not Obliged to Follow the Rulings of the European Court of Human Rights
4 December 2013
The former Lord Chief Justice Lord Judge has called for a change in the Human Rights Act to make it clear that British courts are not obliged to follow the rulings of the European Human Rights Court in Strasbourg.
"In my view, he said "the Strasbourg Court is not superior to our Supreme Court"
Controversial matters such as prisoners' voting rights were a matter for Parliament, he added.
Europe did not consist of a federation of states like the United States of America and, by using the concept of a "living instrument", the Strasbourg Court appeared to be assuming the same mantle as the US Supreme Court.
In this he was following a major speech earlier this week by Lord Justice Laws.
Lord Judge who retired from office in September, had been "astounded" to read the observation of the Home Secretary at the recent Conservative Party Conference that "some judges chose to ignore Parliament and go on putting the law on the side of foreign criminals instead of the public".
"The position of the judiciary is frequently misunderstood, " he went on . " Judges have no choice. They are bound by British law to follow the rulings of the Court of Justice of the European Union in Luxembourg. Our judiciary cannot set aside the law enacted by Parliament."
Lord Judge was speaking at the concluding event in the UCL Constitution Unit's major research project " The Politics of Judicial Independence," which will result in a book next year
Lord Judge also complained that the judges had not been consulted in advance about major reforms which affected them such as the "diminished" role of the office of Lord Chancellor and its later incorporation with the new post of Justice Secretary in charge of prisons.
He had become " increasingly dissatisfied " over new funding arrangements for the courts which could be overshadowed by the funding needs for prisons.
Earlier failures to consult should never happen again but if the chief justice disagreed with future decisions the he should be able to speak out in the House of Lords rather than hold a news conference. Twice yearly meetings with the Prime Minister were not a substitute for the chief justice's full involvement in major funding decisions.
Notes for Editors
- The Constitution Unit is an independent and non-partisan research centre based in the Department of Political Science at University College London.
- The 'Politics of Judicial Independence' project is funded by the AHRC.
- The Guardian: European court is not superior to UK supreme court, says Lord Judge
- The Times: Former chief judge supports right to defy ECHR on jail votes
- The Huffington Post: Lord Judge 'Astounded' By Theresa May's Comments On Human Rights
- The Telegraph: Strasbourg not superior to British courts' says former senior judge
- The Independent: "Thomas Jefferson would have strongly advised us against it"
- Daily Mail: Top judge demands sweeping reforms to Human Rights Act and says UK courts should not have to bow to Europe
- The Week: Lord Judge: Strasbourg doesn't trump the UK Supreme Court
- BBC Radio 4's today programme: The former Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, says the human rights act should be changed to make it clear that British courts do not have to follow the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights. Nick Herbert, former police minister, and Hugh Tomlinson QC, a member of the Matrix Chambers, discuss.