In the Media

Falconer pledges to protect judiciary

PUBLISHED July 19, 2006

The lord chancellor has claimed that the separation of the judiciary from the government and the House of Lords will help preserve the independence of judges.

Lord Falconer, who doubles as constitutional affairs secretary, argued that the changes to the legal system he is pushing through, which have seen him stripped of his role as head of the judiciary and will create a supreme court separate from parliament, will reinforce rather than anatagonise relations.

In a speech to the annual judges' dinner held at the Mansion House on Tuesday, he said: "Our new arrangements, just like our old arrangements, require the lord chancellor to protect the rule of law and the independence of the judges from within government."

"That obligation I have willingly accepted, and will continue to discharge."

And the lord chancellor dismissed suggestions that ministers are in "conflict" with the courts.

His comments came after recent reports of rifts between the Home Office and senior judges over their interpretation of anti-terrorism and sentencing laws.

"The pressures on the relationship between the executive, and the judiciary are constant," the cabinet minister said.

"The differing roles performed by the judges, and the executive make it all too easy to define the relationship as one of conflict. I do not accept that. Nor I believe does the judiciary.

"Just as judges don't do politics, ministers don't try cases. That has always been the core of the relationship between the executive and the judiciary.

"That is how it should remain. It is sometimes hard to maintain. It is sometimes in danger of being pushed - often by those beyond the relationship - towards conflict. We need to resist such attempts - together."

And he concluded that ultimately the goals of government and the judiciary were the same.

"We have different functions but collectively, we need to deal, together, with difficult issues - recognising our separate starting points, understanding our differences - but working together on our commitment to ensure effective justice and a system in which the public have confidence," he said.

"We are all committed to reducing crime, protecting the public, and resolving disputes fairly."