"We cannot let Boris Johnson’s bad loser government dictate to our judges"

This Government is a bad loser.

Having been caught out by the courts for behaving unlawfully it is bent on revenge against the judges – the people every democracy entrusts with making sure its officials act fairly.

Such decisions – tens of thousands of them – are made daily by ministers, councils, police and government agencies.

Complaints against them must be decided by impartial judges trained for the task of judicial review.

They have a good record in overturning decisions that were legally wrong, unfair or just plain stupid.

But now this Government wants to limit people's right to come to court.

Worse, it wants to grab some of the power associated with tyrants – the power to appoint judges likely to rule in their favour.

Chosen to spearhead this attack is our new Attorney General, an undistinguished lawyer called Suella Braverman.

  • Majority of black, Asian and ethnic minority MPs experience racism at Westminster

Two weeks ago, from the safety of a Tory blogsite, she made what now looks like a job application, condemning human rights laws that "cover complaints about noise abatement, planning rules, employment, social security and nonpayment of rent".

These are the very issues that affect many of us, particularly people who are poor, as they face dishonest land-lords, dishonourable employers, incompetent planners and welfare administrators, not to mention neighbours who inflict insufferable noise.

We are a great country because we allow access to independent courts which can remedy such grievances.

This Government wants to limit that access.

Ms Braverman has other, more party political, objectives.

She condemns our Supreme Court, led by Lady Hale, for requiring the Government to get MPs' consent before leaving the EU and for stopping Boris Johnson from adjourning Parliament to prevent it debating Brexit.

These were constitutional issues and the Supreme Court upheld the constitution, our fundamental law.

It is regrettable to have an Attorney General who disapproves of that.

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Ms Braverman replaces Geoffrey Cox. He had a voice like a foghorn and the guts to tell Theresa May when she was wrong.

He knew US habits like electing judges or giving governing parties control of their appointment were bad ideas.

Of course our judges are not perfect.

There are too few female and black jurists and sometimes they say silly things and get the law wrong or misunderstand the facts – but the Court of Appeal usually puts them right.

So long as victims of bad or bloody-­minded behaviour by the state can go to the courts, they have some hope of justice.

That is the hope this Government threatens to extinguish for some citizens, by cutting back judicial review and by, as Ms Braverman urges, "taking back control" of the judiciary.

The truth is it has never had any control since 1641 when Parliament freed judges from the sway of the king.

Ms Braverman complains that some judges' decisions are not legal but "political".

This is arrant nonsense.

They may have political consequences, of course, if the Government loses a case.

But that does not make them "political" in the sense that they are decided by the politics of the judge.

They are decided by the meaning of the law or of the constitution.

Judges have to apply that law, irrespective of their personal or political feelings, and it is a law that Parliament can always change if the majority of MPs do not like the way that the judges have interpreted it.

What is the point of Britain having a constitution unless it has honest and unbiased judges to guard it?

They are the main safeguard against tyranny.

A country where the Government controls the judges – as Hitler and Stalin and other dictators have controlled them – is not a democracy.

  • Geoffrey Robertson QC's autobiography Rather His Own Man – In Court with Tyrants, Tarts and Troublemakers is published by Biteback (2018)

Legal clashes: Government versus the judges

On Monday, the Court of Appeal stopped the Home Office deporting 50 people to Jamaica.

In September the Supreme Court said the PM adjourning the Commons for five weeks before the Brexit deadline was unlawful.

In January 2017 the Supreme Court ruled Parliament must give its consent before Article 50 and Brexit could be triggered.

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