Thursday, 1 December 2016

Attacking the judiciary's independence is the hallmark of third world status-Brexit ruling




Has anyone found the collective common sense of the country yet because it feels as if it has abandoned Britain over the Brexit ruling? Sitting on the train the morning after the Brexit ruling on 3 November I took my newspaper out of my bag and opened it. A chill went through me. It was not because of some idiot passenger who had to sprint the last few yards to jump onto the train before the doors closed and then opened the window to cool off even though it was cold outside. Nothing as mundane as that. 

My chill was brought on by the realisation that nothing is sacred in this country anymore. One of the bastions of Britishness - the independence of the judiciary - is being seen as if it were more than an inconvenient institution. Frankly, from this point on it becomes a slippery slope to third world status unless people recognise that the attacks on the three judges in the Brexit ruling was an attack against fairness and impartiality.  


You see, I know what I am talking about, sadly. I grew up in a third world country (but live in the UK now) where the independence of the judiciary was slowly poisoned by government actions and hijacked for political benefit over a number of years before it became a full throttle assault without any pretence. The practical reality of having a NON independent judiciary can be summed up in one word - DANGEROUS. Voicing any dissent of the government of the day, no matter how reasonable, is likely to result in the person/people being arrested and charged without the comfort of knowing that the court will pay heed to their right to free speech. 

Supporting the opposition party can be a cat and mouse game because the opposition is constantly silenced by being thrown into jail by politically biased judges and its' supporters are marked and harassed with no recourse to the law. The notion of 'human rights' is seen as something that the Western world enjoys because of the judges' independence. There is so much envy in other countries that similar is not afforded to the citizens who live in third world countries. Notice that I haven't mentioned which country it is I am talking about? That is what fear and oppression does. 



One of my favourite books is the 'Rule of Law' written by a former judge, Lord Tom Bingham who died in 2010, for the way it sets out the simplicity of the meaning that 'no man is above the law' (not even Prime Ministers). That being so the judiciary who adjudicate have to be free and fair minded in pronouncing judgement without the dice being loaded against one party. Every political person and organ of state bears responsibility for upholding these traits. 

Lord Bingham wrote that: "The constitution of of a modern democracy governed by the rule of law must...guarantee the independence of judicial decision-makers...". The legitimacy of independence is enshrined in the Act of Settlement 1701 and codified in the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 section 3(1) which states that: The Lord Chancellor, other Ministers of the Crown...must uphold the continued independence of the judiciary". 

When an attack is made on the judiciary it endangers all of us. Irresponsible newspapers who dish out provocative headlines to make money from stirring up negative emotions are affirming and legitimizing the growing sense of hatred of everything that is not right-wing. Hatred of immigrants is fodder for profit. Refugees are treated as swarms of insects who deserve to die watery deaths. Where will all this end and what comes next? 


The Brexiters have their ire stoked and stroked by narratives that are devoid of facts. That the judges were handing back power to Parliament was lost in the false anti-EU rubbish. In the days leading up to the EU Referendum, the phrase 'taking back control', rang hollow for remainers like me but, ironically, the Brexit ruling has actually lent some sense of intelligence to the phrase. 





It feels as if the country is standing at a forked road ahead of the Supreme Court hearing on 5 December on appeal over the Brexit decision. 

Go right for more vitriol or go left for some sense of rational thinking and debate. It sounds rather extreme and radical but that is the reality. For years I have watched the Republican Party in America descend into a deep sewer of right wing-ism and I have sighed a sense of relief that no such thing could ever happen in this country. I was wrong. The MP Jo Cox was murdered for her liberal views. Cue Donald Trump who attacks the press on a regular basis and then ponder on the criticism heaped at the three Brexit ruling judges. Suddenly the stakes have become high. 




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