Supreme Court chief: Politicians were not quick enough to defend judges in Article 50 row

Posted On: 
16th February 2017

The president of the Supreme Court has said politicians should have been “quicker” to defend judges in the face of a media onslaught about a critical ruling on Brexit.

Justice Secretary Liz Truss was accused of failing to defend the judiciary over the Article 50 row
PA Images

Lord Neuberger said judges were “not well treated” after they ruled MPs rather than the Government had the right to trigger Brexit negotiations under Article 50.

When the High Court first announced the ruling the Daily Mail branded the judges “enemies of the people”, while other papers piled in to attack the verdict.

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Justice Secretary Liz Truss was accused of failing in her duty as Lord Chancellor in the wake of the ruling by refusing to rush to the defence of the embattled judges.

Lord Neuberger refused to name names, but said of politicians: “I think they could have been quicker and clearer.”

“But we all learn by experience, whether politicians or judges. It's easy to be critical after the event,” he told Radio 4’s Today programme.

“They were faced with an unexpected situation from which like all sensible people they learned."

Indeed, when the Supreme Court upheld the High Court verdict Ms Truss immediately released a statement backing the independence of the judiciary.

Lord Neuberger added of the episode: "We [judges in general] were certainly not well treated.

“One has to be careful about being critical of the press particularly as a lawyer or judge because our view of life is very different from that of the media.

"I think some of what was said was undermining the rule of law."

He added: "The rule of law together with democracy is one of the two pillars on which our society is based.

"And therefore if, without good reason, the media or anyone else undermines the judiciary that risks undermining our society.

"The press and the media generally have a positive duty to keep an eye on things. But I think with that with that power comes the degree of responsibility."