UK chief justice, PM clash over terror law interpretations

[JURIST] In his first media briefing, incoming UK lord chief justice Lord Phillips [official profile] has warned the British government to back off pressuring the judiciary to enforce its own views of the law in terror-related or other cases. Speaking Tuesday at the Royal Courts of Justice in London, he observed, "Occasionally one feels that an individual politician is trying to browbeat the judiciary, and that is wholly inappropriate. We are all trying to do our job to the best of our abilities." The comments follow others made over the summer by senior British judges concerned about threats to judicial independence [JURIST report] after senior government and opposition politicians pressed the judiciary not to obstruct the operation of new terror laws [JURIST report] and to take formal instructions on the interpretation of human rights laws [JURIST report] in the aftermath of the July 7 London bombings [JURIST news archive]. Later Tuesday in his monthly Downing Street news conference [official transcript], Prime Minister Tony Blair denied he was trying to "browbeat" anyone but again put the judiciary on notice that what he has called the "rules of the game" [August press briefing transcript] have changed:

I am not trying to browbeat the Judiciary or to substitute the role of government to the proper role of judges. I am simply sitting in the seat that is the decision-making seat for the laws to protect people in this country, and all I am saying to the judiciary is be aware that there is a proper role for the judiciary and there is a proper role for government and for Parliament, and the reason we are trying to put these laws forward and toughen up significantly our response to this terrorist threat is because that threat is real and we have seen how real it is in our country and therefore when you are sitting in my seat and trying to take the right decisions and the Police say look, this is what we need to make this country safe, you have got to have good reasons to say no to that. And I think the Police have set out a strong case, particularly on this three months and what I say to people is, go and look at what they say, take account of it, and then tell me why you think they are wrong. But if they are right, then how can I responsibly refuse to do something that will actually protect - as I say - the most basic civil liberty which is the right to life.
The Guardian has more.

 

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