Tuesday, 14 September 2010
Britain is no longer a country for a great old Judge called Lord Bingham
Lord Bingham who, as 'Lord Chief Justice', ran the criminal courts as Britain's highest-ranking judge has died at the age of 76 and Britain is no longer a country for a truly great old man who was to the fore in promoting a strong, independent judiciary.
At a time of growing executive power and a diminishing influence for Parliament and in particular, following the terror attacks of 9/11 in New York and 7 and 21 July 2005 in London, the Labour Government adopted an increasingly authoritarian approach. This included the power to detain foreign nationals 'indefinitely without charge' and the right to use evidence that 'may have been obtained by torture'. The Government also argued for a strong role for the executive, with which the judiciary should not interfere.
"He will be remembered as an exceptional man with a brilliant mind," said Professor McCorquodale, Director of the British Institute of International and Comparative Law.
Shami Chakrabarti, Director of 'Liberty' described him as her hero, praising "his unrivalled combination of intellect, integrity and humility" and calling him "perhaps the greatest world jurist of our times".
"As long as people anywhere fight torture and slavery, treasure free speech, fair trials, personal privacy and liberty itself, Lord Bingham will be remembered."
As Senior Law Lord he ruled that detention of foreign terror suspects without charge breached their human rights and after his retirement in 2008 he argued that Britain's invasion of Iraq in 2003 broke international law.
In 2004 he wrote :
'The function of independent judges charged to interpret and apply the law is universally recognised as a cardinal feature of the modern democratic state, a cornerstone of the rule of law itself'.
Last year he said at the 'Convention on Modern Liberty':
"The possession of great powers by the state is not a reason for using them, rather it should prompt a principled determination to ensure that the permissible exercise of such powers is strictly defined, regulated and monitored so as to guarantee that any intrusion into liberty and privacy of the individual is fully justified by an obviously superior community interest."
Here his comments on the legality of the war in Iraq give a flavour of the man :