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Lady Hale attacks government ‘austerity’ policies

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Supreme Court president in unusual political intervention

Lady Hale

One of the country’s most senior judges, Lady Hale, has laid into the government’s “austerity” spending cuts. In a speech delivered on the Isle of Man on 5 December and published on the court’s website today, the president of the Supreme Court said:

“While some families are fighting for legal recognition of their relationships, we should not forget that other families are fighting for enough to live on and to make ends meet. The UK government’s austerity policies have undoubtedly made this worse and have posed some uncomfortable problems for the courts.”

Senior judges generally steer clear of political subjects in their speeches and writing outside court, for fear of being seen as politically biased. But Hale sought to make clear that her statement was one of fact rather than opinion. She continued:

“The problem that we have in the courts is that it is quite obvious — indeed it is officially conceded — that many of the recent changes to the benefits system impact more harshly on women, children and disabled people than they do on other groups: for example, the recent report from the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Is Britain Fairer?, states that ‘UK wide reforms to social security and taxes since 2010 are having a disproportionate impact on the poorest in society and particularly affecting women, disabled people, ethnic minorities and lone parents’.”

This is not the first time that the justices have courted controversy. In 2015, the Supreme Court rushed to clarify remarks made by Lord Sumption about fast-tracking more women into the judiciary. Less senior judges — notably the recently retired head of family justice, Sir James Munby — have also made eye-catching speeches in the past.

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However, those potentially political interventions were generally concerned with the legal system in some way. Government cuts to social welfare are not obviously a legal matter, although cases challenging their impact on vulnerable families have come before the Supreme Court. Hale mentioned one pending case about “the revised benefit cap, which is even harsher than the original”.

The Supreme Court’s own guide to judicial conduct does not rule out talking politics. It says that “the justices recognise that it is important for members of the court to deliver lectures and speeches… to enhance professional and public understanding of the issues and of the role of the court”. It goes on to say that “in making such contributions, the justices will take care to avoid associating themselves with a particular organisation, group or cause in such a way as to give rise to a perception of partiality towards that organisation (including a set of chambers or firm of solicitors), group or cause”.

Hale speech was mostly about the court’s recent human rights cases. The Supreme Court president, who is expected to retire at the end of the year, also revealed that she recently “had to remind a sceptical taxi driver” about the value of the Human Rights Act.

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18 Comments

Anonymous

Good.

Anonymous

We don’t care about austerity or its ramifications for the public.

Maybe Lady Hale has a YouTube channel you could write an article about? Or maybe even four articles about it? That would be good!

Lord Harley of Counsel

In proper news, the trial of Alan Blacker has begun. Read all about it first on Legal Cheek.

The Rochdale Evening Poos

Yes, he has been acquitted!

All honour and glory has been restored to him and he has been offered a position of Lord Chief Privy Justice of the Privy Arbital Court.

Anonymous Neighbour

Is the Privy Arbital Court the shed at the end of Alan Blacker’s back yard from which a foul stench eminates?

Anonymous

A windfall tax on law firm greed to pay for legal aid!

The obvious solution

#Jez4PM2019

FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW!

Anonymous

I really want to find out who you are and chin you (I won’t do either, but would like to).

Your commitment to shitposting about the least funny trope in LC history is both admirable and infuriating.

Anonymous

Tuberville v Savage defence.

Savage!

Anonymous

If the Corbyn idiot identified himself I would hurt him so bad he wouldn’t be capable of posting nonsense on this website again.

Name the time and place.

Anonymous

S.4 Public Order Act 1986

Anonymous

And you are a fucking arsehole.

Anonymous

“The problem that we have in the courts is that it is quite obvious — indeed it is officially conceded — that many of the recent changes to the benefits system impact more harshly on women, children and disabled people than they do on other groups:”

Alright, let’s assume that’s true.

Imagine that the government reforms the law so that men are treated just as harshly as women, children and disabled people are currently.

Thus, everyone is now being treated equally: in the same identically harsh way.

Would Lady Hale consider this an improvement?

Anonymous

No, but that is a ludicrous proposition and is off point.

The point is that changes have been made the knock-on affect of impacting more harshly on those groups, whereas things could have been done in a different way that would not have resulted in such an impact.

Steven Seagull

It seems to be me to be wholly improper for a Judge to be making comments on Government policy.

Anonymous

I think we should definitely be spending more on the groups that Lady Hale is concerned about. Big increases. Turn the taps on.

But as we’d have to recover the money from somewhere I suggest we look for correspondingly massive cuts in the HMCTS budget.

Anonymous

Let’s get Brexit done and start spending British money on British citizens.

So radical and provocative I know.

Now wait for the little piglets to pull their snouts out of the trough for a moment and come out squealing on the message board.

Anonymous

Why would you want to spend it on British citizens? F*ck Brits lol

Wellbeing at the Bar

Lady Hale,

Please come and talk to us….

We’re worried for you

Xoxo

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