The president of the Supreme Court has condemned the media’s attacks on the judiciary during the Brexit legal challenge.
Defending his fellow judges on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Lord Neuberger accused certain sections of the press of “undermining the rule of law” after they unfairly targeted those involved in the Article 50 legal challenge.
Back in November, three High Court judges ruled that the triggering of Article 50 is conditional on a free vote in parliament. This decision — which Legal Cheek covered in detail at the time — didn’t sit well with the Daily Mail. The newspaper branded the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Justice Sales and Sir Terence Etherton “enemies of the people” in a shocking headline that sparked fury across the legal profession.
When the government took their appeal to the Supreme Court, it didn’t take long for the Daily Mail — a notoriously pro-Brexit tabloid — to set its sights on Neuberger and his colleagues. Describing the justices as “11 unaccountable individuals”, the newspaper even gave each of them a “Europhile rating” out of five.
Now, Neuberger — who is expected to step down from his post later this year — has for the first time gone on record to explain what he thought about these attacks. He said:
We [judges] were certainly not well treated. One has to be careful about being critical of the press particularly as a lawyer or judge because our view of life is very different from that of the media.
Accepting that the press does “have a positive duty to keep an eye on things”, Neuberger warned:
I think with that power comes the degree of responsibility.
In the wake of the media furore, Lord Chancellor Liz Truss was slammed by lawyers and legal academics for failing to adequately defend the judges who came under attack. Commenting on the government’s lacklustre response, Neuberger continued:
After the [High] Court hearing, I think they could have been quicker and clearer. But we all learn by experience, whether politicians or judges. It’s easy to be critical after the event. They were faced with an unexpected situation from which like all sensible people they learned.
Watch the clip in full below:
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