Criticism has been thrown at the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) within hours of it opening its doors for the first time today (9 May).
The Lord Chief Justice Lord Phillips has raised concerns that the MoJ, which is headed by Lord Falconer, does not have in place “constitutional safeguards to protect the independence of the judiciary and the proper administration of justice”.
The judiciary is concerned that the MoJ, which is responsible for the courts, sentencing, prisons, rehabilitation and constitutional policies, will result in judges losing the independence they have gained through conventions.
Judges have been lobbying to ensure this does not happen, but as Phillips LCJ explained, the Government and the judiciary “have not yet reached agreement on a way forward”.
“We’ll continue with our discussions with the Government in our attempt to resolve the important issues of principle that remain,” said Phillips LCJ. “I’ve convened a special meeting of the Judges’ Council to discuss these issues on 15 May with representatives of all levels of the judiciary.”
The Bar Council has also voiced concerns about the new ministry.
Geoffrey Vos QC, chair of the Bar Council, said he supported a better-integrated ministry, but added that it “must not rob Peter to pay Paul”.
“Funding of the judiciary cannot depend in any way on the crises affecting the prison system,” added Vos.