Ministers have acted improperly questioning the legitimacy of judges when they do not do so in their own way, giving the impression that recent pro-government Supreme Court decisions may have been a response to political pressure, according to a parliamentary inquiry.
The parliamentary group of all parties on democracy and constitution (APPGDC) said that in the past the response of a government that acted illegally was to correct its ways, but that now ministers sometimes distorted judicial decisions, questioned judges and threatened to reform the judiciary. .
The APPGDC found that in the last two years, the UK’s highest court had taken seven decisions in which it had distanced itself from its previous authorities and taken a “more pleasant” position for the government, a number “unprecedented” that “may have created the impression that the Supreme Court has been influenced by ministerial pressure.”
MPP Geraint Davies, chairman of the APPGDC, said: “Our investigation has found that independence has been attacked by ministers and the media with their questions about the impartiality of judges at risk of undermining public confidence in the law itself.
“At a time when the rule of law has been broken at number 10 and the human rights of refugees are a major issue in the media, the defense of a safeguarded and impartial judiciary is of paramount importance in protecting our core values of democracy and rights and the rule of law of erosion in the future. “
The report on judicial independence, released on Wednesday after a four-month investigation focused on public law (cases brought against the government or other public bodies), also found that the charges of Lord Chancellor and Attorney General had been politicized.
He said the appointment to positions of politicians with little or no legal experience or position, in contrast to the past, meant that they did not speak on behalf of judges when their ministerial colleagues acted inappropriately or when there were misrepresentations in the press, and even. they themselves engaged in attacks on the judiciary, perhaps with a promotional eye. Davies said the role of Lord Chancellor had become “a political springboard from which to pot the judiciary.”
The report found that ministers had combined “decisions with political consequences” with “political decisions”, “thus giving the misleading impression that judges are going beyond their constitutional limits”.
He said there had been an impact on the morale of judges, citing a 2020 survey which found that 94% of judges were “concerned” or “extremely concerned” by the government’s conduct towards the judiciary.
In some of the seven decisions since 2020 in which the APPGDC said that the Supreme Court had made “revocations” of previous decisions in relation to the government, the investigation said that the court “seems to adopt a language similar to that ‘used in government’. [government’s] political issues ”. While the decisions can be explained by other factors, “it creates the troubling (if only an appearance) appearance of the politicization of the judiciary.”
The report says there should be statutory guidance for ministers on their constitutional duties to maintain the independence of the judiciary and on the criteria for the appointment of law ministers.
A government spokesman said: “We have the utmost respect for the judiciary and its freedom to make decisions without political interference.”