Wednesday 9 November 2016

Britain, already no country for old judges in the High Court, will soon become one for even older ones in the Supreme Court

Three High Court judges who have hit the headlines have a collective age of 188 years. The oldest and most senior, at 69, is Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd who became Lord Chief Justice and Head of the Judiciary in 2013. Behind him, the 65 year old Sir Terence Etherton is the second most senior judge in England and Wales and head of the civil – as opposed to the criminal – division of the Judiciary. The junior member of the trio, Lord Justice Sales, is just 54 and became a High Court Judge in 2008 and an Appeal Court Judge in 2014.

In the recent three-day hearing over which they presided, the Conservative Government had argued that nothing in the European Communities Act of 1972 restricted the Crown’s and therefore the Government's power to withdraw from European Union treaties using the Royal Prerogative without the consent of Parliament. The judges were having none of this and the Lord Chief Justice told the Court that the Government’s arguments had been contrary to “fundamental constitutional principles of the sovereignty of Parliament”.

Neither 'The Daily Mail'

Nor the 'Daily Telegraph' liked the verdict.

In order to cast doubt on his impartiality the 'Daily Mail' emphasised the Europhile credentials of John Thomas by telling its readers that he was  'a founder of the European Law Institute, a club of lawyers and academics aiming to ‘improve’ EU law' - paper's emphasis, not mine. In addition : 'He was also President of the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary for two years.'

Terence Etherton's impartiality was questioned by the fact that he qualified 'for the 1980 Moscow Olympics as part of the British fencing team – but boycotted the games in protest against the USSR’s invasion of Afghanistan.' For good measure it added that he 'made legal history a decade ago as the first openly gay judge to be made a Lord Justice of Appeal' and 'In 2014, he and his partner, solicitor Andrew Stone, took part in the first Jewish ceremonies at a UK synagogue to convert a civil partnership into marriage.' Obviously, highly questionable behaviour.

Philip Sales was charged with the fact that he 'charged taxpayers £3.3million in six years during his tenure as Mr Blair’s First Treasury Counsel – a lawyer who represents the UK government in the civil courts' and 'his appointment in 1997 had caused consternation in legal circles because he was only 35. He had been a barrister at 11KBW, the same chambers as Mr Blair and then-lord chancellor Derry Irvine, leading to claims of cronyism.'

Having lost its case in the High Court, the Government has appealed to the Supreme Court which is expected to support the decision of the High Court and whose judges can expect to be on the receiving end of the bile of the 'Daily Mail' and 'The Telegraph.'

What have the old judges in the Supreme Court done, which might add grist to the newspapers' mill ?

President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury at 68 is the one judge who might be to the Daily Mail's liking because, in 2010, he gave a controversial, dissenting judgement that the trade union 'Unite' had not complied with ballot rules under trade union legislation and in the same year he ruled that peace protesters in Parliament Square who had camped out in 'Democracy Village' should be evicted after the protesters lost an appeal.

Lord Mance is 73 years old and up to his eyes in matters Europe. In 2000 he became Chairman of the Consultative Council of European Judges and Trustee of the European Law Academy in 2003.

Lord Kerr of Tonaghmore is a 68 year old Judge with a Northern Irish pedigree. He was born in County Armagh and educated at St Colman's College, Newry and read law at Queen's University Belfast and was called to the Bar of Northern Ireland in 1970. He served as Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland from 2004–09 and we know that that 56% of voters in Northern Ireland voted 'Remain' in the referendum. That should be enough for the 'Mail' to question his impartiality.

Lord Clarke of Stone-cum-Ebony is 73 years old and has all the hallmarks of a dangerous progressive, who in 2010 predicted that 'judicial review' will grow in the future, commenting that citizens are more aware of their rights than they once were and are willing and able to challenge decisions and that the Supreme Court will play an important role in the development of administrative and public law.

Lord Wilson of Culworth, 71 years old and another progressive who wonders how long Northern Ireland would "be able to hold back the tide in favour of same-sex marriages." In addition, he has said that incorporating the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law had led to dramatic improvements for minority groups, like gay and trans-gender people and over 20 years, it had "raised our life together in this kingdom to a higher level of mutual respect." 

Lord Sumption is a 68 years old who 'The Guardian' once described as, being a member of the 'million-a-year club', the elite group of barristers earning over a million pounds a year. In a letter to the paper as long ago as 2001 he compared his 'puny £1.6 million a year' to the vastly larger amounts that comparable individuals in business, sports and entertainment are paid.

Lord Reed, just 60 years old, who back in 1999 sat in the Grand Chamber Judgements  on the appeals of Robert Thompson and Jon Venables as part of his role as one of Britain's ad hoc judges at the European Court of Human Rights. His involvement in European affairs did not end there : he acted as an expert adviser to the European Union Initiative with Turkey on Democratisation and Human Rights between 2002 and 2004 and has been Chairman of the Franco-British Judicial Co-operation Committee since 2005.

Lord Carnwath of Notting Hill is 71 and also up to his armpits in Europe. He was joint founder of the EU Forum of 'Judges for the Environment' and held the position of Secretary General for this EU Forum between 2004 and 2005.

Lord Hughes of Ombersley is 68 years old, another dangerous progressive who has a particular interest in developing and monitoring sentencing guidelines as the Deputy Chairman of the Sentencing Council and has attracted controversy in a number of high profile cases, including 'R v Owen', commonly known as 'The Baby P Case,'

Lord Hodge is a mere 63 years old, but he is a Scot, educated at Croftinloan School, and Trinity College in Perthshire, then after Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, the School of Law of the University of Edinburgh. We know that 62% of Scots voted to remain in the EU which should be quite enough to prejudice his impartiality.

Lady Hale of Richmond, the only woman serving on the Supreme Court is 71 years old, but is as equally suspect as her male colleagues having given, in 2015, the Caldwell Public Lecture at the University of Melbourne, Australia, on the topic 'Protecting Human Rights in the UK Courts: What are we doing wrong?'

Britain, a country where Senior Judges in its Supreme Court, bastions of an independent Judiciary, are to be lined up and shot by a hostile press as ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE.

As predicted :

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