Lord Neuberger: Rights ‘valueless’ unless they can be enforced

Lord Neuberger

The UK’s most senior judge urged ministers to approach its proposed reforms to curb the use of judicial review with ‘great care’. ‘Any proposals which limit or cut down or risk limiting or cutting down the rights of the citizen to come to court to complain about infringement of his or her rights by the state or any attempts to reduce the ability, to kerb excesses, of the executive through the courts have be to be looked at with great care,’ Lord Neuberger, president of the Supreme Court told journalists yesterday.

According to a Press Association report, Neuberger acknowledged that there might be abuses that need to be dealt with ‘but I do think that any proposals have to be looked at with very, very great care’. Earlier this year the judge said it was ‘entirely proper’ for judges to speak out over concerns about legal aid in a speech at the Institute for Government – as reported on LegalVoice HERE.

‘The most obvious topic on which the judiciary can properly contribute, and sometimes have a duty to contribute, is the rule of law. It is therefore entirely proper for the Judiciary to stress to the executive and parliament that it is fundamental to the rule of law that every citizen, perhaps above all the poor, the vulnerable, the disadvantaged, should be able to go to court to vindicate their rights or to defend themselves, whether to challenge excesses of executive power, to protect private rights, to be compensated for wrongs, to secure family rights, or to defend themselves if prosecuted.’
Lord Neuberger

Speaking yesterday, Neuberger said that legal aid was what ensured that ‘the most underprivileged people in society, the people who need the protection of the law most in many ways get a proper hearing’. ‘[Rights], whether human rights or other rights, are valueless if they cannot be enforced in court. Reductions in legal aid therefore inevitably cause one concern,’ he said. Without legal help , people faced ‘two unpalatable choices’. ‘One is to put their hands up and not go to court, which is a fundamental denial of a right in any civilised society, and the other is to go to court, often at a disadvantage, because the other side, whether it is the state, whether it is their husband or wife or civil partner or whether it is their neighbour, may have legal representation,’ he said

Litigants in person often ‘feel angry and bewildered. Court proceedings are often unfriendly to someone who has not been to court.’

About Jon Robins

Jon is a journalist and has written about the law and justice for the national papers and specialist press for more than 15 years. Jon is a visiting journalism lecturer at Winchester University, a visiting senior fellow in access to justice at the University of Lincoln and patron of Hackney Community Law Centre. He has won the Bar Council’s legal reporter of the year award twice (2015 and 2005). Jon is editor and co-founder of LegalVoice

There are 3 comments

  1. But isn’t this what the government WANTS to achieve? The gagging of anyone they feel is poor and disadvantaged? The government want us to be disenfranchised, that way they can keep the rich and privileged, rich and privileged and the rest of us are considered to be subhuman and without any kind of rights, human or otherwise.

    The government’s entire group of policies are aimed at taking us back to the 19th century, you can see where they are going. Taking away our human rights is just another step in the process. Remember that in the 10th century people only had recourse to the law if they could afford it. Taking away legal aid ensures that this will be the case again, taking away our human rights is much more fundamental. If they do that, then they can do anything to the population that pleases them and we will have NO recourse to justice. Lord Neuberger may as well hang up his gown because justice will no longer have a place in the Conservative UK.


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