Justice, Fairness, Equality
News report by Helen Gavaghan,
published 19 October, 2018.

ISSN: 1751-598x


Until the end of 2017 the chief justices of Australia, Canada and New Zealand were women*. That was a fact placed by Lady Hale, President of the UK Supreme Court, before her audience yesterday evening of law students and faculty at The University of Leeds in the north of England. Her talk was entitled "Reflections on the First Year as UK Supreme Court President".

Favourite case of the year (2017) before the UK Supreme Court was the one involving the issue of what constitutes cheating at cards.

To reach the justices of the Supreme Court a case must meet certain tests. It must be arguable, involve debate about a point of law and be of general public importance. The facts must have been agreed, and, importantly, the case must answer the question of "Do we want it", where "we" is the Supreme Court.

The justices sit as five, seven or nine. "We have sat as 11 only once", and that, said her ladyship, was over the role of the UK parliament in triggering the UK's exit from the European Union [
24th January, 2017. Judgement.].

Though not an issue in any way before the Supreme Court Lady Hale's talk touched briefly on the controversy which took place, separately, about how the Daily Mail covered the legal wrangle in this matter before it reached the Supreme Court. The Daily Mail ran a headline "Enemies of the People" when judges in the Divisional Court of England and Wales concluded (click here) UK parliamentary authority was needed to trigger the UK's departure from the European Union.

Lady Hale told her audience that a UK government statement should have been issued saying "We have a free press, write what you want. My job is to tell you, 'you were wrong'."

Her Ladyship ran through aspects of the Supreme Court's jurisdiction, including in relationship to international agreements such as the Refugee Convention and the Supreme Court's constitutional role during the window between emergence as Statute from devolved legislatures and the time when Royal Assent is given.

Lady Hale said of the Supreme Court, "We can't alter laws which Parliament has given us".

20th October, 2018: *Readers of Science, People & Politics, who are the ones this news report was written for, might like to know that in the case of Canada a new chief justice was sworn in in mid December, 2017. Addition by Helen Gavaghan (Ed).

Advanced publication online on 19.10.2018 of an item to appear in iss. 4 (Oct. - Dec.), VIX (2018) of Science, People & Politics ISSN 1751-598x (online). This article will occupy p9 of the pdf of the completed issue, and will be url no. 8 of the html version of the same issue.

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