Retired judge calls for political subjects to be removed from law degrees

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By Aishah Hussain on

Politicised topics like criminology and diversity law should be reserved for postgraduate study

A retired judge has recommended that political subjects be removed from undergraduate law degrees.

“A law degree should cover only core subjects such as criminal and contract law,” writes His Honour Judge Nicholas Webb in a letter to The Telegraph. “Other politicised topics — for example, criminology and diversity law — should only be studied as part of a graduate degree or for the professional qualification.”

Webb’s comment stems from the increasingly common fear that the judiciary, and the Supreme Court, in particular, is becoming politicised in the wake of landmark constitutional law rulings such as the parliament prorogation case. “It is probably no longer possible to avoid greater scrutiny of the make-up of the Supreme Court, especially since it reached a unanimous decision on a matter that another court, which included the Lord Chief Justice and Master of the Rolls, held to be non-justiciable,” he explained.

The 70-year-old judge, who retired from the Midlands Circuit Bench in October after serving for 16 years, suspects this problem has “deep roots” and, in some cases, goes back to “politically motivated teaching at universities”.

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Elsewhere in his letter, Webb, a former barrister who was called to the bar in 1972, offers two further suggestions to uphold the independence of the judiciary. Firstly, he asserts that the “Judicial Appointments Commission should be overhauled and both its membership and the criteria for judicial appointments should be reviewed”. Secondly, “every judicial appointee should have been in full-time practice as a barrister or solicitor for a significant and set number of years before being appointed to any office”.

Webb’s argument, that our judiciary needs to remain independent, has some merit — as demonstrated by the backlash to Lady Hale’s recent ‘girly swots’ remark — but is doing away with what are supposedly ‘political’ subjects on the LLB the right way to go about it? What about those that choose to study non-law degrees (such as politics *gasp*) and later convert to law via the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) route? And does any law course in the country even offer a module on diversity law for that matter?!

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