27 May 2011
Tristan Hallam: The Supreme Court - The Highest Court In Our Land
Perhaps I am getting old. When one reaches a stage where the prospect of rain draws a response that it is 'good for the garden' surely must mean that my night clubbing days are over.Equally so, when I immediately turn on BBC 4 rather than one of the other more 'hip' TV channels, it is perhaps time to start looking at retirement flats by the sea.My evening yesterday, the 25th May 2011, apart from being interspersed with periods of work before and after watching TV, was taken up mainly in watching BBC 4.Apart from the excellent programme on Herb Alpert, the Tijuana Brass Band and the A&M Record Label that Mr Alpert was principle in setting up with Jerry Moss in 1962 before subsequently selling to PolyGram in 1989, there was also an excellent programme on the Supreme Court and the independence of the judiciary.For those who have read my blogs previously, this is a matter which is very dear to my heart. I consider an independent judiciary as being absolutely paramount to having a democratic state.It is for this reason that I am always very uneasy when there is talk of the judiciary having political leanings as can be the case in the US. We do not have the same situation in this country and 'Praise be' that we do not.The point of the programme on BBC 4 was not however in respect of the independence of the judiciary but was instead in look into the Supreme Court (the highest court in our land and which effectively replaces in that position, the House of Lords) and which was meant to show that our Judges are more in touch with the world at large than we actually think.Some of you may smile at this point. However, it should not be underestimated that these Judges, soon no doubt to be followed by Jonathan Sumption QC as I have indicated in a previous blog, would probably be considered by most, to be more in touch with what goes on around them than Judges who sat some 20 years ago.That said, one only has to wander through the Inn of Court (and Lincoln’s Inn is no more than a stone throw from this office), to see the type of environment many Judges grow up in.Bearing in mind that Judges are generally by the very nature of the profession, selected from the ranks of barristers, generally silks (Queens Counsel) who in turn have done remarkably well as barristers at the bar and who in turn most likely went to an independent school and therefore are likely to have grown up in a home environment which was generally privileged by any one’s standards.They most likely went to Oxbridge, perhaps wandered around the colleges contemplating life before, not generally knowing which direction to go in as far as the future career is concerned, decided to go to the bar. They are of course generally very bright and so they should be given the variety of cases they have before themFrom one hallowed ground however, to another. Perhaps barely touched by the common man.How can they therefore be in touch with what goes on around them I hear you say. Well, to some extent the judiciary has to remain independent and in addition has to remain objective. For this reason I do not raise much of an objection to the ‘hallowed ground’ point that I have set out above. It certainly means that Judges are likely to be objective.It does however, mean that in some cases, they are only a small step away from becoming detached.Going full circle therefore to my point above, any Judge that takes the underground or tube through London ( as some who sit in the Supreme Court do – BBC 4 -The Highest Court in the Land: Justice Makers) is becoming that little more attached to the real world, more likely therefore in my view to come to the correct (and more so sensible) decision when asked to rule in their capacity as a Law Lord.Some would say that we live in a funny old world….they would not be far wrong.Tristan Hallam is a partner in Personal Injury in the London office of Russell Jones & Walker. If you or a member of your family has suffered an accident or injury call our expert personal injury solicitors on 0800 916 9046, fill in our short online claim form and one of our specialist personal injury team will review your compensation claim for free.
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