Ministers “could use the legislation to overturn court rulings they don’t like”


Ministers could overturn court rulings they do not like as part of the reforms pushed by Boris Johnson, it was said today.

The government is said to be considering a system of annual legislation that would effectively overturn judicial reviews of the policy.

The idea immediately sparked an outcry from the legal community amid accusations of a war on the powers of judges.

Justice Secretary Dominic Raab and Attorney General Suella Braverman are considering the option of passing an annual “interpretation bill” to counter unnecessary rulings, according to the Times.

No10 is believed to be in favor of the approach, with strong supporters that the constitutional principle of the supremacy of parliament over the unelected judiciary should be upheld.

But senior conservatives are among those criticizing the prospect, even before the details are clear. Justice ministry sources today ruled out ministers getting delegated powers to change the law.

But Edward Garnier QC, solicitor general at the time of David Cameron, expressed concern that the decisions could be overturned by “fiat”.

Boris Johnson

Ministers could overturn court rulings they don’t like under reforms crafted by Dominic Raab (left) and pushed by Boris Johnson (right), it was claimed today.

In 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that it was illegal to prorogue Parliament for five weeks just before the Brexit deadline.

In 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that it was illegal to prorogue Parliament for five weeks just before the Brexit deadline.

“This government seems to forget that, like all of us, it is also subject to the law,” he said.

“And I should have thought that No.10 would have learned a lesson from the battle of prorogation, when the Supreme Court reminded the government that this is a country under the rule of law and not under a dictatorship.”

Garnier added: “If the Prime Minister does not like a legal decision of the court which has been a legitimate interpretation of a law passed by parliament, it is open to the government to attempt to change the law by an act of parliament. .

“But it is not for a minister who has now disappeared to definitively modify the existing statutory law by ministerial decree.”

Former Justice Secretary David Gauke told The Times: “If the government is considering having parliament retrospectively amending the law as it has been interpreted by judges, then this would be an extremely worrying step. and a departure from the rule of law and traditions of this country. ‘

Mr Johnson has clashed heavily with the law in the past. In 2019, the Supreme Court ruled that it was illegal to prorogue Parliament for five weeks just before the Brexit deadline.

The latest ideas are apparently too late to be included in the current judicial review and courts bill, but could be presented separately next year.

A source from the Justice Department insisted they were focusing on the existing bill.

The speculation came after Mr Raab promised yesterday to stop Britain’s “drift” into continental-style privacy laws.

The deputy prime minister said he wanted the human rights law to be overhauled to include the “correction” of the balance between freedom of expression and privacy.

His comments come after criticism of the outcome of a court case between the Duchess of Sussex and The Mail on Sunday.

The appeals court ruled last week that Meghan had a “reasonable expectation of privacy” following a letter written to her ex-father Thomas Markle.

Although the planned changes are not a response to this case, Mr Raab said proposals would be presented in a few weeks to renew the focus on freedom of expression, which has traditionally been a priority in UK law on speech. private life.

“We are finalizing the consultation on this matter. We want to revise the human rights law, ”he told Times Radio.

“There has been a lot of talk in the Sunday papers about free speech and privacy and the judge-made privacy laws that we have seen develop in this country over the past few years.

“Part of it has been the EU – the right to be forgotten. This is partly the Strasbourg case law. I think we have a tradition in this country that emphasizes and prioritizes freedom of expression and open debate. I think it’s something that is pro-freedom that we’re going to look at.

Currently, under human rights law, judges must comply with rulings of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France – and Mr Raab said that this had contributed to a drift towards a law on the protection of privacy. He said if such a law is passed, it should be decided by MPs and not by judges on a case-by-case basis.

The Justice Secretary added: “The British tradition, if you look back from John Locke, John Stuart Mill to Isaiah Berlin, the politics of this country, we put more emphasis on freedom of speech, the transparency, accountability of politicians, for people in positions of influence.

“We don’t have the protections of continental style privacy law. And I think if we were to go down that road, it should have been decided by elected politicians.

“And I think that’s a good example of the kind of balance we can find with our own local approach in this regard rather than over-reliance on a continental model, which is effectively what human rights law is. the man left us.

“Of course, at the same time, what I want to see is greater respect for the democratic prerogatives of Parliament to legislate in these areas.”

Mr Raab said the government wanted to strike the right balance, to ensure that people could be protected from pedophiles, crooks and radicalizers.

“But certainly, I think the drift to continental style privacy laws, innovated in the courtroom, and not by elected lawmakers in the House of Commons, is something we can and do. need to correct, ”he said.

Legal experts have warned that the Duchess of Sussex’s lawsuit against the Mail’s sister title could have a chilling effect on free speech.

Downing Street also hinted at the action. When asked if Boris Johnson thinks the judges were getting the right balance between privacy and freedom of expression, a spokesperson for Number 10 told reporters last week: “We will carefully consider the implications of the You have heard the Prime Minister say before that a free press is one of the cornerstones of any democracy, and this government recognizes the vital role newspapers and the media play in holding people to account and shed light on the issues that matter.

Last week, Conservative MP Damian Green, a member of the Commons Culture Committee, said: “If we want privacy laws, they have to go through Parliament and not be decided on a case-by-case basis. cases through the courts. ”

When asked if Boris Johnson thinks judges are getting the right balance between privacy and free speech, a spokesperson for Number 10 told reporters last week:

When asked if Boris Johnson thinks the judges were getting the right balance between privacy and freedom of expression, a spokesperson for Number 10 told reporters last week: “We will carefully consider the implications of the judgement”

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