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The Politics of Judicial Independence in Britain's Changing Constitution

January 2011 - September 2014

Old Bailey

“… I will do right to all manner of people after the laws and usages of this realm,  without fear or favour, affection or ill will.”

- The Judicial Oath

Read the Project ProposalGet Involved! An Invitation to Researchers

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In January 2011, the Constitution Unit began a three-year AHRC-funded project on 'The Politics of Judicial Independence in Britain's Changing Constitution'. The project team are Robert HazellKate Malleson (Queen Mary, University of London), Graham Gee (Birmingham University), Patrick O'Brien and Brian Walker.  

The AHRC granted an extension of the project to June 2014, and have also awarded Follow Up funding to enable further dissemination of the project’s findings and conclusions to March 2015.  For initial plans of these dissemination activities, read our Follow Up funding proposal.

The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 placed Ministers under a statutory duty to uphold judicial independence yet the Act does not define judicial independence. If it is to be upheld it must be clearly understood by all those who are required to protect it. 

Our research questions are:

  • What is the meaning of judicial independence and what are its proper limits?
  • How is judicial independence best protected, and by whom?
  • Who is now accountable for the judiciary, and to whom?

Project Resources

Recent Blog Posts

Lord Phillips and project collaborators

Our three year research project on “The Politics of Judicial Independence in Britain’s Changing Constitution” explored the changing relations between the judiciary, executive and Parliament in light of recent constitutional reforms which have established the judiciary as a more separate branch of government. Throughout the project we have held private seminars with representatives from all three branches of government and the legal profession, to stimulate dialogue between them about the issues we are researching. This has proved very successful, with senior figures regularly attending from the Ministry of Justice, the judiciary and Parliament. They include Jack Straw (former Lord Chancellor), Lord Neuberger (new President of the Supreme Court), Lord Phillips (then President), Lord Clarke (then Master of the Rolls), Sir Alan Beith (chair, Commons Justice Committee), Lord Goldsmith (former Attorney General), Ursula Brennan (Permanent Secretary, Min of Justice), etc .

The seminars were high level, invitation only events held under the Chatham House Rule, which was part of the reason for their success.  But, we now want to take our findings out to a wider audience, by organising a series of lectures, seminars and conferences to disseminate our findings to different practitioner communities through 2014. We want to organise or speak at a series of events held in all three branches of government, and at lawyers’ conferences, running through 2014-15, finishing with a closing conference in 2015. 

Our aims and objectives for the follow up funding are:

  • To disseminate our findings to the widest possible audience, amongst the judiciary, in government, in Parliament, the legal profession and the wider public
  • To generate better understanding about the new relationships between the judiciary and the other branches of government, and a dialogue which continues after our project has gone.


These events are run as part of our AHRC-funded project on The Politics of Judicial Independence.

Why It Matters that Conservatives Should Support the European Convention on Human Rights

Dominic Grieve QC MP
3 December 2014

Read the transcript & watch the video »

Judicial evidence to parliamentary committees: good for Parliament, less good for judges?

Monday 10 November 2014 - 6pm to 7:30pm
House of Lords, Committee Room 3

See details »

SUPREME COURT OF THE UK: FIFTH ANNIVERSARY SEMINAR
How much has changed? And what might change in the years ahead?
1 October 2014
Read the seminar notes >

Constitutional Change: Unfinished Business

4 December 2013
Lord Judge (recently retired Lord Chief Justice)
The closing lecture for the 'Politics of Judicial Independence' project.

Read the transcript & watch the video »

Practitioner Seminar 8: Judicial Independence in the Tribunals System

18 April 2013

Read the seminar note »

Practitioner Seminar 7: Judicial Independence & the Executive

5 December 2012

Read the seminar note »

Practitioner Seminar 6: Judicial Independence in Northern Ireland

22 February 2012

Read the seminar note »

Practitioner Seminar 5: Judicial Independence & The Supreme Court

3 October 2012

Read the seminar note »

Practitioner Seminar 4: Judicial Independence & Judicial Appointments

22 February 2012

Read the seminar note »

The Human Rights Act

2 February 2012: This seminar was co-organised with Middle Temple on 'Law, Politics and the Future of the Human Rights Act'.

Read the seminar note »

Practitioner Seminar 3: Judicial Independence & Parliament

7 December 2011

Read the seminar note »

Practitioner Seminar 2: Judicial Independence & the Media

21 September 2011

Read the seminar note »

Notes from the Canadian Supreme Court

7 July 2011

Justice Rosalie Abella of the Canadian Supreme Court delivered a lecture on 'Constitutions and Judges: Changing Rules, Roles and Expectations'.

Read Justice Abella's lecture »

Practitioner Seminar 1: Judicial Independence & the Separation of Powers

11 May 2011

Read the seminar note »

Judicial Independence & Accountability

8 February 2011
Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers (President of the UK Supreme Court) gave the launch lecture for the 'Politics of Judicial Independence' project.

Watch the video, read the report »

 

‘The Politics of Judicial Independence in the UK's Changing Constitution’ Book

Response to UK Supreme Court Consultation on Judicial Appointments

October 2014

The project made a submission in response to this consultation

Submission to the Constitution Committee on the Office of Lord Chancellor

July 2014

Graham Gee made a submission in response to this consultation.

Submission to JAC consultation on use of s.159 Equality Act

July 2013

The project made a submission in response to this consultation.

Changes to Judicial Appointments in the Crime and Courts Bill 2012

June 2012

Patrick O'Brien published a Briefing Paper on the Crime and Courts Bill.

Submission to Ministry of Justice Consultation on 'Appointments and Diversity: A Judiciary for the 21st Century'

February 2012

Robert Hazell, Kate Malleson and Graham Gee made a submission to this inquiry.

When the Supreme Court won't Hear

2 November 2011

Robert Hazell and Graham Gee published a comment piece in The Guardian.

Judicial Independence and the Supreme Court

August 2011

Patrick O'Brien published a short article in the British Politics Review: (2011) 6/3 British Politics Review 5.

Submissions to Lords Constitution Committee Inquiry on The Judicial Appointments Process

June 2011

Members of the Project made two submissions to this inquiry.

Project Application Documents

The Counter Terrorism and Security Bill: a potential further erosion of citizenship rights in the United Kingdom

Mon, 26 Jan 2015 10:00:18 +0000

Hayley J. Hooper assesses the notion of ‘temporary exclusion orders’ proposed in new anti-terrorism legislation. She highlights the orders can be made without judicial oversight and argues that passing the Bill risks giving parliamentary legitimacy to a policy adverse to human rights. The Counter Terrorism and Security Bill was introduced into the House of Commons […]

Read more...

Are quotas for judicial appointments lawful under EU law?

Fri, 14 Nov 2014 10:00:37 +0000

A recent report laid out recommendations for improving diversity in the judiciary, including a quota system for women and BAME candidates. Kate Malleson and Colm O’Cinneide explore the legality of such measures under EU law, and specifically whether the quotas could be brought in under EU employment law or EU gender equality law. In April 2014 Sadiq Khan, Shadow Secretary of […]

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Selecting the Justices: Four suggestions

Wed, 15 Oct 2014 09:00:00 +0000

As the UK Supreme Court marks its fifth anniversary, Graham Gee and Kate Malleson reflect on how the process of selecting the Justices can be improved. Earlier this month the UK Supreme Court celebrated its fifth anniversary. There has been a flurry of vacancies, retirements and new appointments during the Court’s first five years, with only four of […]

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Inquiring into the office of Lord Chancellor

Thu, 31 Jul 2014 10:00:10 +0000

The House of Lords Constitution Committee has opened an inquiry on the office of Lord Chancellor. Here, Patrick O’Brien outlines the evolution of the Lord Chancellor’s role. He argues that in an important sense the Lord Chancellor no longer exists and formal abolition of the role could result in positive judicial developments. On 16 July, […]

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Graham Gee and Kate Malleson: Judicial Appointments, Diversity and the Equal Merit Provision

Wed, 07 May 2014 09:42:02 +0000

This is posted on behalf of Graham Gee and Kate Malleson and originally appeared on the UK Constitutional Law Association Blog. One of the changes introduced by the Crime and Courts Act 2013 was to amend section 63 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005, which provides that the Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) must select candidates for […]

Read more...

Graham Gee: The Lord Chief Justice and Section 5 of the Constitutional Reform Act

Mon, 14 Apr 2014 10:06:17 +0000

This is posted on behalf of Graham Gee and originally appeared on the UK Constitutional Law Association Blog. The Constitutional Reform Act redrew relationships between the senior judiciary and Parliament in a number of ways. Amongst the most significant was removing the right of the LCJ to speak in the Lords. Earlier this month, the […]

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Where next for the Court Service? The struggle between the Judiciary and the Executive

Wed, 14 Aug 2013 14:30:34 +0000

14th August 2013 On 26th March 2013, a low key written ministerial statement appeared before the House of Commons from the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, declaring that he had asked staff to ‘explore proposals for the reform of the resourcing and administration of our courts and tribunals.’ Lodged between announcements that student loans were to […]

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John Crook: The abolition of the Lord Chancellor

Thu, 20 Jun 2013 12:19:47 +0000

20th June 2013 [Posted on behalf of John Crook] Last week a seminar was held marking the 10th anniversary of the abolition of the office of the Lord Chancellor. A note by Patrick O’Brien about what was discussed at this seminar is available here. On 12 June 2003, in what was one of the great political […]

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Northern Ireland chief justice to confront critics on bail decisions

Tue, 12 Mar 2013 09:20:16 +0000

15th March 2013 The Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland Sir Declan Morgan has given a rare TV interview designed to take the heat out of allegations of partiality between unionists and nationalists in granting bail. He is offering to explain the basis of recent decisions to the Justice Committee of the Northern Ireland Assembly […]

Read more...

2. Judges and the European Convention; or we need to talk Abu Qatada!

Tue, 04 Dec 2012 11:25:31 +0000

This post is part two of a dialogue with Brian Walker on the Human Rights Act and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). Brian raises three points that deserve close attention. Firstly, what is the status of the relationship between the ECtHR and Britain? Secondly, why do cases take so very long to get […]

Read more...

Judicial Independence home

News

  • 24 April 2014: We made a submission to the MoJ/JAC Triennial Review 2014. Read it here.
  • 30 June 2013: Read our submission to the JAC's consultation on the use of s.159 of the Equality Act in Judicial Appointments. Read it here.
  • 12 June 2013: The note from our ninth seminar on the Abolition of the office of Lord Chancellor: 10 years on is now available. Read it here.
  • 18 April 2013: The note from our eighth seminar on Judicial Independence in the Tribunals System is now available. Read it here.
  • 5 December 2012: The note from our seventh practitioner seminar on Judicial Independence and Executive is now available. Read it here.
  • 7 November 2012: The note from our sixth practitioner seminar on Judicial Independence in Northern Ireland is now available. Read it here.
  • 3 October 2012: The note from our fifth practitioner seminar on Judicial Independence and the Supreme Court is now available. Read it here.
  • 25 June 2012: We have prepared a briefing note on the judicial appointments provisions of the Crime and Courts Bill 2012. Read it here.
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Contact us

Tel: +44 (0)20 7679 4977
Fax: +44 (0)20 7679 4978
Email: constitution@ucl.ac.uk

The Constitution Unit

Page last modified on 11 aug 14 14:35

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