Wednesday, 19 November 2008


It is worth noting, see link below, that Lord Pannick last week in the House of Lords proposed that judges should be able to speak out against criticism given to them by politicians. I respectfully disagree as there are inherent dangers with respect to this. This would open the back door for judicial intervention into politics. This would be unconstitutional as it would permit unelected officials to have a say in matters of politics and public policy. This politicisation of the judicial role also undermine the independence of the judiciary.

The comment in question was made with respect to Paul Dacre’s criticisms of Sir David Eady, judge of the High Court of England and Wales. Sir David Eady has interpreted British libel law to ban a book, namely Rachel Enhrenfeld’s ‘Funding Evil’. This is a powerful act that inveighs against our inherent right of free-speech in Britain that has taken several centuries to develop. One has to look no further back than ear-cropping of those who wrote against Elizabeth I, to understand what a struggle it was to establish freedom of speech in this country.

It is no doubt very likely that an activity of judges will be of interest to public and political opinion. However, for judges to have to defend their judgments from public opinion would undermine the integrity and independence of the legal system. I very much hope that the power of the judge in making libel law is thoroughly questioned by politicians and the media, and that judges are aware of the heavy criticism that follows. Libel law in its most draconian form can be used to excoriate and supress genuine opinion, where it is not factual - and this has the danger of concomitantly suppressing the freedom of speech. Paul Dacre was right to scrutinise Sir David Eady, and appropriately there can be no recourse for the judge. It is for Parliament to put right any inappropriate wondering of the judge as it sees fit, and not for the judge to defend him or herself.

For Lord Pannick's views:
> 0016.htm

APG Pandya

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