Feeding the trolls
Another week goes by, and yet another round of feverish attacks on the judiciary makes headlines
Appearing before the justice select committee to answer questions on his annual report this week, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, warned MPs that the prison population was ‘very, very high’ and suggested ministers look at non-custodial forms of punishment.
Lord Thomas’ suggestion is not an unreasonable one, especially for non-violent offenders. But for one Tory backbencher the comments were like a red rag to a bull.
Philip Davies MP claimed the UK’s most senior judge was ‘out of step with the facts’. Speaking to MailOnline – where else? – the MP for Shipley said the Lord Chief Justice’s ‘left-wing view of the world’ showed Lord Thomas was ‘out of touch with the public he is supposed to serve’.
Davies cited that ‘for every 1,000 crimes committed in the UK, we send around 18 people to prison – one of the lowest ratios in the world’. We’ll just gloss over the fact that the UK’s current prison population stands at over 85,000, the third highest in Europe – only behind Russia and Turkey.
And we’ll ignore the fact that 10,000 prison officers recently staged a strike amid claims UK prisons were ‘in meltdown’ due to a ‘continued surge in violence and unprecedented levels of suicide and acts of self-harm’, according to the Prison Officers Association.
But that was not the only attack on respected members of the judiciary this week. Melanie Phillips used her column in The Times to take aim at Baroness Hale, claiming the female justice is ‘not fit’ to take over as president of the Supreme Court when Lord Neuberger retires next summer.
Phillips said Lady Hale had ‘thrown a judicial hand grenade’ into the ‘charged landscape’ of next month’s Brexit appeal after making ‘extraordinary comments’ about the Miller case.
‘Lady Hale’s lapse of judgment [sic], at a time of acute concern about public trust in an objective judiciary, must surely rule her out of the running for the Supreme Court’s top job,’ wrote Phillips.
Lady Hale has already told Solicitors Journal she will not be recusing herself from the upcoming article 50 appeal set to be heard on 5 December. Moreover, it doesn’t look like her chances of succeeding Lord Neuberger have been particularly hurt by her perfectly reasonable speech to law students in Malaysia.
Solicitors Journal would also hazard a guess that 400 words from a broadsheet columnist will not do the Supreme Court justice much harm either.