|Supreme Court sworn in|
By Jane Croft
Published: October 1 2009 14:31 | Last updated: October 1 2009 15:51
The UK’s new Supreme Court was formally opened on Thursday with the swearing in of 11 judges.
The new apex of the British justice system will replace the House of Lords as the final court of appeal for all civil cases and most criminal cases in the UK.
It sweeps away centuries of tradition by making a clear distinction between parliament which makes the law and the judiciary which applies it
The new court is housed in the former Middlesex Guildhall refurbished at a cost of £56m and will be open to the public with proceedings routinely filmed.
The swearing-in ceremony saw Lord Phillips become the first President of the Court.
He was joined by 10 other colleagues in taking an oath of allegiance to uphold the law. They will be known as Justices rather than Law Lords. A final member of the court will be appointed at a later date.
Lord Phillips said the Supreme Court: “emphasises the independence of the judiciary, clearly separating those who make the law from those who administer it.”
The court, which will hear its first case on Monday, is one of the most striking examples of the government’s piecemeal implementation of the wide-ranging reforms it has proposed to the country’s hotch-potch constitution.
|Sworn in, the 11 judges who'll be dispensing Supreme justice from Britain's new £60m court|
By Steve Doughty
Last updated at 10:27 PM on 01st October 2009
The new British Supreme Court set up by Tony Blair opened for business today in the shadow of a warning from one of the former Law Lords.
Lord Neuberger - who has declined a seat in the new court - said that the judges of the new court would be more powerful and less accountable than the old Law Lords.
The judge - who left the ranks of the Law Lords to become Master of the Rolls - said that the establishment of the new court would affect the life and functions of its judges and they would 'subconsciously perhaps' gather power to themselves.
Historic: (Left to right) Lord Kerr, Lord Roger, Lord Mance, Deputy President of The Supreme Court Lord Hope, Lady Hale, President of The Supreme Court Lord Phillips, Lord Brown, Lord Saville, Lord Collins, Lord Walker and Lord Clarke, the Justices of the nation's new Supreme Court, wearing their ceremonial robes, outside the new Supreme Court building in Parliament Square, London, after being sworn in
After the swearing-in ceremony, the new justices joined the annual procession to Westminster Abbey to attend the service that marks the start of the new legal year
The first 11 judges of the new court - which opens in a building which cost £60million to redevelop and where hearings will cost £20,000 an hour - were sworn in today. The first case - on a terrorism issue - will be heard next week.
In a hint that the Supreme Court may not live up to the highest hopes of its founder, the judges were sworn in behind closed doors, filmed for television while the public was barred.
The exclusion of ordinary people clashes with the claims of the President of the court, Lord Phillips, who said it would allow the public to see the workings of the top tier of the justice system.
Lord Neuberger's warning was given on BBC Radio Four's Top Dogs programme.
He said: 'To change the Law Lords into the Supreme Court as a result of what appears to have been a last-minute decision over a glass of whisky seems to me to verge on the frivolous.
'The danger is you muck around with a constitution at your peril, because you don't know what the consequences of any change will be.'
Mr Blair created the new court with a stroke of his pen in his controversial reshuffle in July 2003. His critics say it was part of a plan dreamed up over a glass of whisky to oust his first Lord Chancellor Derry Irvine, once Mr Blair's boss in barristers' chambers, and replace him with Lord Falconer, once Mr Blair's flatmate.
The new court has long been unpopular with judges. Lord Woolf, Lord Chief Justice in 2003, learned of its establishment from Sky News and it took ministers months to assuage his anger. Then the judges were roused to fury again in 2007 when news of the creation of the new Ministry of Justice was announced through a leak to a Sunday newspaper.
Advocates of the Supreme Court say it will advance the constitution by separating the judges from Parliament and ensuring their independence.
However judges will continue to be appointed by the Lord Chancellor, currently Jack Straw. And, while the openly political appointments of judges to the United States Supreme Court are always challenged by Congressional committees, no-one will be able to challenge appointments to the British Supreme Court.
Lord Phillips said today: 'For the first time, we have a clear separation of powers between the legislature, the judiciary and the executive in the United Kingdom.
'This is important. It emphasises the independence of the judiciary, clearly separating those who make the law from those who administer it.
'As Justices of the Supreme Court we will be more visible to the public than we ever were when sitting as members of the House of Lords. This is desirable as the court will only decide points of law of public importance.
'Justice at the highest level should be transparent and the new Court will have a crucial role in letting the public see how justice is done.'
Following the private swearing in, the new justices joined the annual procession in their wigs and robes to Westminster Abbey to attend the service that marks the start of the new legal year.
They were joined by judges from the Royal Courts of Justice in The Strand and went on attend the Lord Chancellor's breakfast in the Great Hall in Parliament.
The £60million renovation of the old Middlesex Guildhall for the new court has included £50,000 for a logo based on national flowers of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The emblem is represented on carpets, curtains, doors, partitions and over the judges as they sit in the three main courtrooms.
The royal coat of arms, used as a symbol of authority in most courts, has been relegated to a single appearance above the main door of the court.
Another royal demotion has been suffered by a statue of Edward Vll which used to stand in the main entrance. The statue, with the carved inscription Emperor 1901-1910, now sits by the serving counter in the Supreme Court canteen.
Carpets were designed by pop artist Peter Blake, best known for producing The Beatles' Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover.
Wood panelling extends beyond the court rooms to the judges' library to staff areas, including the office of chief executive Jenny Rowe.
The key Supreme Court judges who were sworn in today
LORD PHILLIPS OF WORTH MATRAVERS Former Lord Chief Justice who stepped down to take over leadership of the new court. An impeccable liberal figure who has tried to persuade criminal judges to send fewer criminals to jail. He once appeared in a newspaper leaning on a shovel and dressed in jeans carrying out work duties as part of an attempt to sell the merits of community sentences. Aged 71, he has come under fire for expressing his sympathy with those families caught up in assisted suicide cases, something critics say indicated bias.
LORD SAVILLE OF NEWDIGATE
Began his career as a Law Lord in 1997 and was almost immediately diverted to run Tony Blair's judicial inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday. The controversy over the inquiry has clouded his career. Conceived only, say Labour's opponents, as a sop to Republicans, the inquiry has run for nearly 12 years, at a cost of £200million, half of which has gone to lawyers. No date has yet been set of publication of its report. Aged 73, Lord Saville had a strong reputation as a commercial lawyer and judge before the Bloody Sunday fiasco.
LORD COLLINS OF MAPESBURY
One of the most recently-appointed judges and the first to have been picked from the unfashionable ranks of solicitors rather than the elite club of barristers. He worked for the Herbert Smith law firm and qualified to act as an advocate in the higher courts alongside barristers. Aged 68, his most notable case was acting for the Chilean government before the Law Lords during the saga over the extradition of former dictator General Pinochet.
BARONESS HALE OF RICHMOND
The only woman on the Supreme Court, Lady Hale is a feminist. Aged 62, she is noted for her time as head of the Law Commission, a law reform quango which under her leadership shaped the Children's Act, said by critics to strip parents of rights, and family legislation which proved either controversial or unworkable, including the Family Law Act bringing in no-fault divorce. She has criticised the male domination of judiciary culture.
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|UK Supreme Court strikes down govt terror measure|
By JILL LAWLESS
The Associated Press
Wednesday, January 27, 2010; 7:18 AM
LONDON -- Britain's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the government overstepped its power when it froze the bank accounts of five terrorist suspects without a vote in Parliament. It said the special Treasury orders were unlawful.
The government said it had a duty to disrupt terrorist financing, and would seek Parliamentary approval for "fast-track legislation to ensure there is no disruption to our terrorist asset-freezing powers."
The court also ruled that the suspects' names should be made public, after a challenge by media groups including The Associated Press. They had initially been granted anonymity and identified only by initials.
The five men had their assets frozen by the Treasury between 2005 and 2007 and have had to apply for permission even to buy groceries and other essentials. They are accused by the government of offenses including meeting al-Qaida leaders and giving support to terrorist organizations in Pakistan, but they have not been charged or convicted by any court.
The men's assets were seized based on two U.N. Security Council resolutions that imposed sanctions on people alleged to be funding terrorism.
The judges said the effect on the men's lives had been "very burdensome ... The impact on normal family life is remorseless and it can be devastating."
Seven Supreme Court judges ruled that the Treasury did not have the power to make orders that "interfere so profoundly with individuals' fundamental rights without parliamentary scrutiny."
The lead justice, Lord Phillips, said the ruling "upholds the supremacy of Parliament in deciding whether or not measures should be imposed that affect the fundamental rights of those in this country."
The decision is the latest in a series of court rulings undermining tough anti-terrorism measures introduced by the British government after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The ruling could have far-reaching implications for the government's ability to freeze assets in the future. More than 50 people living in Britain are believed to be on the Treasury sanctions list.
Four of the suspects were named by the court as Mohammed Jabar Ahmed, Mohammed Azmir Khan, Michael Marteen and Hani El Sayed Sabaei Youssef. At an earlier hearing the justices lifted the anonymity order against the fifth, Mohammed al-Ghabra, whose name had already been in the public domain.
Al-Ghabra is a British citizen who was born in Syria, and the others are originally from Egypt. Three of them - Ahmed, Khan and Marteen - are brothers.
The men had argued that revealing their names would harm their reputations, infringe their right to privacy or even lead to reprisals against family members in Egypt.
The court said these concerns were outweighed by "a powerful general public interest" in identifying the men.
In Youssef's case, the court said his argument for anonymity was undermined by the fact that he regularly publishes articles and broadcasts on Al-Jazeera under his own name.
The judges said there had been a large and unjustified increase in anonymity orders in court cases, and supported an argument by the media groups that identifying suspects was essential to telling the full story.
"If newspapers can identify the people concerned, they may be able to give a more vivid and compelling account which will stimulate discussion of the impact of freezing orders and their impact upon the communities in which people live," they said in their ruling. "Concealing their identities simply casts a shadow over entire communities."
Supreme Court of the United Kingdom: Part 3 of the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 established a new Supreme Court as the final court of appeal in the United Kingdom. From October 2009 it will assume the judicial functions of the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, and some of those of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The Badge of this new Court (illustrated left) has been approved by Her Majesty The Queen and placed on record at the College of Arms: College reference: Standards 5/118.
The design, which was produced in Scotland, makes floral reference to the countries of the United Kingdom covered by the Supreme Court: a leek for Wales, flax for Northern Ireland, a thistle for Scotland, and a Tudor rose for England.
Clive Cheesman, Rouge Dragon Pursuivant, appeared on BBC Radio Wales on 19 November 2008 to discuss the design with callers to the Richard Evans Show.