Chief justice urges more independence


A NUMBER of measures need to be put in place by the new justice minister in Northern Ireland to secure the independence of the judiciary, according to the North’s Lord Chief Justice.

Sir Declan Morgan was speaking on the role of the judiciary in the context of the devolution of justice at the fifth chancellor’s lecture in the University of Ulster.

“There is often a lack of understanding of why judges need to be independent, what it means to say that a judge or the judiciary are independent and why judges are not and should not be accountable outside the system of appeals for their decisions,” he said.

He said the state should put in place a number of measures to secure judicial independence.

These included a constitutional or statutory guarantee for judicial independence, so that judges are able to act without pressure, threat or interference from any quarter, but particularly from parliament or government. They also included independent judicial appointments, security of tenure and judicial remuneration.

There should be a disciplinary system that ensured the highest standards of probity and integrity expected of judges were maintained and appropriate action taken if they were breached.

The budget for the courts should be administered by the judiciary itself or an independent body, he said, citing both Scotland and the Republic of Ireland as examples.

Referring to the media he said they were entitled to criticise any judicial decision they disagreed with, and where appropriate campaign for changes in the law.