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The Supreme Court

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Nihilus

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Note On The Text
I don't actually expect anyone to really read this properly, unless of course they have an interest in the subject. As such I don't anticipate any comments either, though they're certainly not un-welcome. The reason that I'm doing this is twofold; primarily it's because it helps me to memorise and organize the thoughts contained within and that are important to me and my education, but it's also a means by which I'm expressing my opinions, even if no-one reads or understands them... All of these are basically the 'Profound Essays of Nonsense' that the name of my blog refers to. So read on folks, if you dare; I can't guarantee your sanity by the end of it though...


Some of you may be aware that on the 1st of October 2009 the Constitutional Reform Act 2005 took effect in regards to abolishing the judicial functions of the House of Lords. Perhaps, for those of you who know nothing about the UK Court System but are still interested, some explanation might be in order.

The UK Court system is split into two sections; 'Courts of first instance', and the 'appellate courts'. The courts of first instance are effectively where court proceedings first take place and where claims are first issued. These courts are the Magistrates Court, the County Court, the Crown Court and the 3 divisions of the High Court (The high court is a rather interesting one, as it serves both as a court of first instance and as an appellate court). Appellate courts deal with appeals of decisions that have been decided in the lower courts. Appellate courts are the High Court, the Court of Appeals and the House of Lords ("HoL").

However, to fully understand why the judicial functions of the HoL have been transferred to a new "Supreme Court", some explanation is needed as to how the UK legislative process works. Typically there are 3 branches of government; the 'Legislature' (The branch that makes laws. Basically Parliament, including both the House of Commons & House of Lords), the Executive (The branch that enforces laws, such as the civil service), and the Judiciary (The branch that interprets laws; that is to say, decides what the laws actually mean). The UK political system works mainly on a doctrine of a 'Fusion of Powers'. That means that all of the branches are connected in some way. For example the legislature consists of MPs (Members of Parliament), and the Executive is formed by select MPs that the Prime Minister chooses from his/her own party (The cabinet, who will also by rule have to hold a seat in the House of Commons). In the past, this was also demonstrated in the HoL; as 12 most senior members of the judiciary ("Law Lords") sat in the HoL, though their input in the political process was restricted purely to points of law. The HoL was also the final court of appeal to which claimants or defendants could take their cases to (Though is some cases, further appeal may be possible to the European Court of Human Rights, or the European Court of Justice).

What the Constitutional Reform Act essentially did was sever some of that fusion; the section that concerns the Legislature and the Judiciary. One of the primary functions of the judiciary has always been to remain independent of any political bias and to protect citizens from the abuse of power by the government. I quote the late Lord Denning when I say that the most important function of law should be "to restrain the abuse of power by those that hold it". Before the birth of the Supreme Court, there had been some confusion as to how the judiciary was supposed to remain independent of political bias or threat when its 12 most senior and learned brothers sat the HoL itself. By removing all judicial functions from the HoL, judicial independence has been significantly strengthened. What we're essentially witnessing is another step forward towards true democracy and a strengthened line of defence against threats towards civil liberties; such is the role of the judiciary. However, it should be noted that Parliament is supposed to have total legislative sovereignty, but this is weakened in that ultimately, it is up the judges to decide what any law passed by Parliament means, but that can wait for another time.

If you've read this all the way through and have found it somewhat interesting or informative, then please drop me a small comment, perhaps voicing your own opinions as the what the effects of this may be. If you haven't read it, then I can't really blame you, I probably wouldn't have myself either. Until next time folks...
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