Liz Truss may have breached law by failing to defend Article 50 judges, ex-Lord Chief Justice says

Posted On: 
19th November 2016

Liz Truss may have broken the law by failing to defend the judges that ruled that triggering Article 50 required Parliament’s approval, a former lord chief justice has claimed.

Liz Truss was appointed Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor in the summer
Credit: 
PA Images

Ms Truss failed in her duty as Lord Chancellor in the wake of the ruling and caused a “constitutional breakdown” by refusing to rush to the defence of the judges, who were labelled “enemies of the people” by the Daily Mail, Lord Judge said.

He also accused Ms Truss of failing to act independently of Downing Street when she eventually issued a statement in support of an independent judiciary, claiming her words “were almost exactly the same as the Prime Minister used a couple of hours later”.

Lord Falconer says Liz Truss should be sacked

Top Tory Michael Gove defends judges amid outrage over Article 50 ruling

Lord Chancellor backs 'independence and impartiality' of judges, but fails to condemn attacks

If she were taken to court over the matter, she would probably be found to have acted unlawfully, he said.

“It is very serious. At the heart of it is a constitutional obligation on the Lord Chancellor to speak and on this issue there has been silence,” he told The Times.

Ms Truss’s statement, when it did arrive, was “too little, too late,” Lord Judge said.

“She is in relative terms a very inexperienced politician with no legal experience, who has been silent — and answered to Downing Street when she should have been independent.

“If I am right, the Lord Chancellor asked the Prime Minister or No 10 to have some sort of input into what she said about attacks on the judiciary. And the whole point of the Lord Chancellor’s job is that he or she is there to take an independent line.”

Ms Truss said: “An independent judiciary is the cornerstone of the rule of law. I take my duty as Lord Chancellor to defend that independence very seriously.

“Setting aside the fact that I think it unlikely the High Court is imperilled by the opinions of any newspaper, there is another principle at stake. I believe in a free press, where newspapers can publish, within the law, their views. It is not the job of the government, or the Lord Chancellor, to police headlines.

“The High Court judges have exercised their independence and made a ruling ‘without fear or favour’ in accordance with their oath. I defended that independence following the decision. The important thing now is that legal process is followed.”