UK To Adopt Greater (Partial) Separation of Powers

If this news report is correct, the UK will adopt a greater separation of powers for the judiciary. Members of the House of Lords Judicial Committee, who are currently not technically judges but actually members of the upper chamber of the legislature, will cease to sit in the House of Lords and become an independent court. [Will the body be renamed 'the Supreme Court'? The article does not say.]

There will, however, be no increase in the (total lack of) (formal) separation between the legislature and the executive.

Falconer reaches deal with judges over reform: The proposals, which were announced in Parliament after four months of hard-fought negotiations, promised a “statutory guarantee of the vital principle of the independence of the judiciary”.

Lord Falconer: 'Enduring platform for the future'

Although concessions were made by both sides, it is understood that the Government did not want to take on the judiciary, thereby jeopardising its proposals to abolish the Lord Chancellor, set up a judicial appointments commission and replace the law lords with a supreme court.

Under the plans, the Lord Chief Justice will become the constitutionally-recognised leader of the judiciary and take the additional title of President of the Courts of England and Wales. A Judicial Appointments Commission (JAC) will be headed by someone who is neither a judge nor a lawyer, and no judges would be appointed without its recommendation.

Lord Falconer said the sole criterion for appointment would be merit. Ministers' powers to list and reject candidates will be “severely curtailed” although they will retain powers to challenge JAC recommendations and keep responsibility for the final appointment of judges.

The commission would include five judges, two lawyers, one magistrate, one tribunal member and six lay people. The whole process will be overseen by a judicial ombudsman while discipline of judges will be the joint responsibility of the Constitutional Affairs Secretary and the President of the Courts.

The Constitutional Affairs Secretary will also be accountable to Parliament for administration of the courts and will have a “separate, specific duty” to defend judicial independence.

Last November, Lord Woolf said of plans to abolish the Lord Chancellor as a central pillar of the constitution, that the last time the judiciary had faced a threat of such magnitude was in the 17th century, when “a lot of judges lost their heads”.

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