The judiciary is the section of government that is responsible for the settlement of law. The judiciary examines cases where citizens are accused of breaking the law and to make a judgement on whether they have or not. The judiciary settles dispute acting as an arbitrator. Their role is also to enforce the law and interpret the law as it stands. They are politically neutral and show no bias for either side of the case.
Why is it important that judges are independent and neutral?
To protect civil freedom the judiciary is independent from the executive and legislature. The independence of the judiciary is achieved in the UK by a combination of statute, common law, parliamentary rules, conventions, and judicial and government restraint. Neutrality-meaning no bias for either side of the case. The judiciary must be neutral to ensure justice is fair and that disputes are settled in an equitable manner.
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The judiciary being neutral and independent uphold the law and protect citizen’s right and freedom. If the judiciary were not independent of the executive and legislature there would be a risk of bias they (the other branches of government) could force and apply pressure for the judiciary to privilege some but not others, removing neutrality within the judiciary. Popularity could fall and forms of dictatorship could arise within the judiciary. Independence is vital for neutrality to transpire.
How independent are judges in the UK?
Judges are mainly separate from the executive and legislative, apart from the Lord Chancellor who has a role in all three sections of government. Parliamentary regulations stop parliament from debating matters that are in the course of being determined in the courts. Also, rules say that individual judges are not be criticized in parliament unless they are the subject in discussion. The government does not train judges in the UK therefore the judiciary is not as accountable towards them as they would be if they were trained by the government.
The judiciary is able to interpret the law as it stands, effectively giving judges the ability to act as lawmakers. The Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister appoints the highest judges, anyone below is appointed by the Lord Chancellor. Judges have a statutory retiring age of 75. They enjoy protection from public actions for anything said or done while acting in a judicial capacity. The parliament giving judges the power can just as easily take it away; there is no written constitution to say that the judiciary is independent but political problems would follow any effort to interfere with judicial independence.
The government has had to accept the rule of law principle that they should not interfere with the conduct of the court. A violation of judicial independence example is in 1989, Lords Lane and Donaldson criticized proposals in the courts and legal services Bill, because in their view, it gave the government greater control over the legal profession, thus threatening its independence.
How effectively do courts protect civil liberty?
The trademark for liberal democracy is the effectiveness with which a range of basic civil rights or civil liberties is guaranteed. There is well-established public support for the rule of law. There are the main principles for example that all persons are equal before the law, and that no one is punishable except for a break of the law. The political and public culture of liberty and protection of speech can be seen in the support for the rule of law.
The role of the European court of Human Rights assists British citizens to obtain their rights by upholding and enlarging civil liberties within Britain. The Human Rights Act in Oct 97 with the incorporation of the convention into British law means that British citizens who consider there rights to have been infringed will be able to take their cases to British courts rather than to the European Court of Human Rights. The British courts protect civil liberty with the independence of the judiciary neutrality is present, and is essential security for civil freedoms.
The judicial review of the executive and reviewing of legislation secures accountability and protection for the citizens of Britain. Most judges are from the lines of barristers. The majority of them went to high-class universities such as Oxford or Cambridge and are probably members of private hobby clubs. They are wealthy and most of them are male and white, representation is poor.
The combination of social characters certainly affects the view of judges and can influence the way they work. Some say that this affects the judge’s neutrality and makes them impartial. Even so civil freedom I believe should still be maintained no matter the judge’s background. A recent case of the courts protecting civil liberty is within the European Court of Human Rights and artificial selection where for medical grounds people can have genetically engineered children, i.e. hereditary diseases.
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