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How Has The Judicial Role Changed In British Politics Since 1945?

2079 words - 9 pages

In more recent times, it has been argued that the role of the judiciary in the UK has changed in that judges have become more politicised in their decision making. (Bowcott, 2011) It is argued that the judiciary is now more active and more political than ever before in history. Ordinarily, of the three branches of government, the judiciary is a subordinate one, it is bound by ‘parliamentary sovereignty’ and is detached from political process as the courts existed mainly to interpret policies made by the other two branches with no real powers to strike it down. In more modern time, this is true in theory as opposed to in practice. The judiciary has been seen to be neither as subordinate nor ...view middle of the document...

This was the case in the 70’s with the Labour ministers and again in the 80’s and 90’s with Conservative ministers. The fact that the number of applications for judicial reviews rose significantly was another indication of the judiciary’s activism. From the relatively low number of 500 in the early 80’s, numbers shot to 4539 by 1998. And never in history have these figures dropped below 4000. (Jones and Norton, 2010, p.466) With the increase of cases of judicial review was an increase in media attention and the more attention it got from the public the more attention it gained on the political stage. In 1993, when Kenneth Baker was found guilty of contempt of court, law lords declared that even ministers were subject to the law and were bound by it, solidifying the position of the judiciary and serving to support the claim that is the judiciary was becoming more powerful as an institution. (Jones and Norton, 2010, p.466)
The Constitutional Reform Act 2005 meant that several changes were implemented in the judiciary. Firstly it created a new Supreme Court and provided a separation between the Supreme Court and the parliament and government. The judges of the new Supreme Court took over the roles of the Law Lords as well as some of the roles of Judicial Committee of Privy Council such as appeals on jurisdiction under the Devolution Acts. With its first session on the 1st of October 2009, the Supreme Court was made up of 12 judges that would be known as Justices of the Supreme Court with the inclusion of a president and a vice-president. (Leach and Coxall et al., 2006, pp.254-255) The 2005 Act reformed the office of the Lord Chancellor in that it would now be held by someone who wasn’t also in the House of Lords and the office holder would no longer automatically become the Speaker of the House of Lords. Also, the functions of the Lord Chancellor were transferred to the President of the Courts of England and Wales. The Lord Chief Justice would now be in charge of the training of new judges and also representing the views of the judiciary. An independent judicial appointments commission was also established to facilitate the selection of judicial candidates for recommendation to the Secretary State of Justice. And also the Judicial Appointments and Conduct Ombudsman which was in charge of investigating complaints against the judicial appointments process. (Judiciary.gov.uk, 2014)
The UK’s membership in the European Community has also had a role to play in the growing power of the judiciary. The 1972 European Communities Act gave legal force and pre-eminence to EC, now EU Law, which meant that laws passed by the European Community were also implemented in the UK. Even in a situation in which the Acts of Parliament and the articles of European law are conflicted, European law trumps acts proposed by parliament. Again the role of the judiciary was strengthened as in debates on the 1972 Act, ministers declared that ‘the courts were to construe the...

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