The Supreme Court

Will the setting up of the Supreme Court lead to a better understanding, on the part of the public, of the justice system and the role of the Supreme Court?

If you were one of the many studying law and embarrassingly did not know much about the House of Lords and its' work, or, like thousands of others did not even know where it was located, then do not despair.  Now that the House of Lords closed its doors for the last time in July 2009 in readiness for the opening of a brand new, grandly named, Supreme Court you can concentrate all your energies into finding out everything it's possible to know about the UK's Supreme Court.

Incidentally the Judicial Committee of the House of Lords, which was the part of the House which acted as the nation's highest court, carried out its business in some obscure part of the Palace of Westminster.  The new Supreme Court on the other hand has been located in a much more high profile and newly-refurbished building in Parliament Square.  The decision to locate the Supreme Court away from the House of Lords has been quite deliberate to counter any possible suggestion that the Court might be part of Parliament and therefore not completely independent.

Another new move means that for the first time in the highest court in the land, television cameras will be there to record its work.  Many of you who have visited courts as part of your studies will probably remember being warned by tutors about taking cameras and mobile phones into court as television cameras are banned from all other courts in England and Wales.  Contrary to countries like America where televised court proceedings seem to be part of everyday life.

The Court's new president, Lord Phillips of Worth Travers, is anxious for the public to understand the role of the Supreme Court and is clearly in favour of greater openness about the Court's work and has commented “One of the objects is to enhance public understanding of the justice system and the role of the Supreme Court.”  Lord Phillips hopes that these initiatives will work as he believes that the public did not 'really understand' the role of the former House of Lords and its judges.

The Court will consist of 12 Law Lords presided over by Lord Phillips. The Court has one vacancy at present, due to the standing down of one of the top judges, Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury.  Lord Neuberger is to take over high judicial office as Master of the Rolls.

Lord Neuberger of Abbotsbury, some will say quite rightly, made public his views about the necessity for a new Court, saying that the court’s creation verged on 'frivolous tinkering with the constitution', which may have 'dangerous unintended consequences'.

The UK’s Supreme Court opens for business in October  2009 — and, for the first time, television cameras will be there to record the Supreme Court's  work, but will the subject matter be gripping enough?  This must be of some concern because the judges have deliberately chosen a case which will be about powers to freeze terrorist suspects' assets.  Lord Phillips has been reported as saying 'We wanted to start with a case of obvious public importance,” adding,  “....that seems an appropriate one.”

Well we will see!  In the meantime, you can have too much of a good thing so maybe we will leave things there for the moment. 

Lets hope Lord Phillips is right to be 'excited.'




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