Falconer: Politicians should stop baiting judges

The Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer has warned his fellow ministers against interference in the rule of law.

Speaking at the Annual Judges dinner last night, Lord Falconer said: “Whilst it is perfectly legitimate for ministers to address policy issues raised by individual judgements, ministers should not criticise judges.”

He added: “Just as judges don’t do politics, ministers don’t try cases. That has always been the core of the relationship between the executive and the judiciary. That is how it should remain.”

The Lord Chancellor claimed that new constitutional arrangements had preserved the independence of the judiciary.

Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips, who also spoke at the dinner, took the opportunity to condemn the recent criticism of judges’ sentencing decisions, which he said have taken the form of personal attacks that have been “intemperate, offensive and unfair”.

He said: “It has always been the role of the Lord Chancellor to stand up for the rule of law and for the independence of the judges.”

Phillips said priorities for the future included cutting the cost of criminal legal aid and clarifying sentencing procedure.

“I was astonished and concerned at the complexity of the sentencing exercise that a judge is required to perform. There has been a deluge of legislation over recent years affecting sentencing,” said Phillips.