Tuesday 23 January 2018

Britain's top judge slams UK Home Secretary in deporting foreign criminals row

By Wesley Johnston

BRITAIN’S most senior judge has launched an attack on Theresa May for criticising judges over their failure to deport foreign criminals.

Lord Neuberger said the Home Secretary’s strongly-worded criticism of immigration judges was “inappropriate, unhelpful and wrong”.

Neither ministers nor judges benefited and the attack last month, which singled out some judges for ignoring rules designed to enable more foreign criminals to be deported, were inherently unfair as judges could not fight back.

Lord Neuberger, who took over as president of the highest court in the land last October, also warned that such public attacks risked “destabilising” the delicate balance between Parliament and the judiciary.

Mrs May said the failure of judges to take new rules into account meant she would bring in new laws to stop them allowing foreign rapists and violent criminals to stay in Britain by claiming a right to a family life.

Asked about Mrs May’s attack, Lord Neuberger, president of the Supreme Court, said: “I’m concerned about it because I think it’s inappropriate and unhelpful for ministers to attack individual judges or groups of judges.

“For a minister to attack a judge I think is also wrong.”

He told the Daily Telegraph: “If we start attacking each other in public when each group was honestly trying to do its job, even if we don’t agree with the way they’re doing it, it does no credit either to the minister who’s attacking or to the judge who is being attacked.

“It’s bad for both of us and I don’t see what the benefit is.”

Asked if ministers should stop making such public attacks, he added: “Obviously I would prefer it if there weren’t any because I don’t think they’re appropriate.”

Lord Neuberger said ministers’ criticisms were unfair on judges who “don’t speak out in public against ministers”.

“One of the reasons why we don’t speak out is it just is destabilising for the system,” he said.

“We have a very good system in this country of distributing power and balancing power between the legislature, Parliament and the executive, civil service, ministers and the judges. We each respect each other’s turf.

“Inevitably there’s going to be tensions, indeed if there weren’t tensions something would be wrong. If the judges always did things ministers liked then there would be understandable suspicion as to what was going on.”

But he said any Government minister has “his or her own solution if a judge reaches a conclusion or adopts an approach the minister doesn’t like”.

“They can appeal the decision and if the appeal fails and the minister still isn’t happy then the minister can go to Parliament to change the law,” he said.

However, Lord Neuberger, 65, acknowledged the “pressures on people in public service, in particular on politicians” were great.

“I think that this happens from time to time,” he added.

“It’s not the first time it’s happened.

“It’s fair to say, for both this government and the last government, that while there have been attacks on judges from time to time, which in my view are regrettable and shouldn’t happen, there’s never been any question of the government trying to do anything to undermine the independence of the judiciary, and that remains the position now.

“I’m concerned but I’m not alarmed.”

The Home Office declined to comment on Lord Neuberger's remarks.


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