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Jack Straw takes his revenge hot and strong

March 5, 2010

Jack Straw has asked the Judicial Appointments Commission to “reconsider” their recommendation of Sir Nicholas Wall for the position of President of the Family Division. Commenting on the report about this in Times Online a barrister writing under the pseudonym (I presume) of Horace Rumpole says:-

“I have been a barrister specialising in child protection for over 20 years. Without any hesitation I can tell you that Lord Justice Wall is the best, most thorough and most compassionate judge we have in this country. When he spoke out against Straw, every child lawyer (of whatever political persuasion) stood behind him.”

Absolutely correct; so why would the Minister of Justice think a judge as widely experienced and eminent as Sir Nicholas Wall unsuitable for the post? We need look no further than Justice Wall’s Keynote Address to the Association of Lawyers for Children in November 2009 which I have mentioned before. In that address he drew attention to the appalling state of the Family Justice system caused by the inept policies of Mr Straw, his colleagues and minions, and said:-

” I am the first to acknowledge that responsibilities come with our highly privileged position. We do not engage in politics. We do not take political decisions, or score political points. We adhere to the fiction that Parliament controls the executive, even though we know that, in reality, it is the other way round. We interpret and implement the will of Parliament. That is our function. Parliament has also charged us (the judges) with the decision making process in relation to the children who come before us – in both public and private law cases. It is judges and magistrates who have to decide, in the cases before them, where the paramount best interests of children lie. ….Neither I, nor any of my colleagues has any wish to engage in politics. But I do think – certainly in the field of Family Justice – that the time has now come when the historical and indeed instinctive judicial reluctance to go public over matters properly within our sphere of activity must come to an end. In common parlance, we must come off the bench. We must say what we think, and if we feel that the exercise of our proper functions is being impeded by anyone or anything, we should say so, loud and clear, and in plain language.”

There we are – independent thought expressed; result blacklisting. Will the Judicial Appointments Commission speak truth to power and have the backbone to say to Straw, we’ve thought again and its still Wall. I doubt it; I think they will tug the judicial forelock and cave in.

Whatever happened to ministerial impartiality, to the separation of powers; to judicial independence or just plain decency?

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