Lord Judge: Strasbourg doesn't trump the UK Supreme Court
Former lord chief justice supports right of UK to defy European court on issues such as jail votes
THE European Court of Human Rights is not superior to the UK's Supreme Court, the former head of Britain's judiciary has said.
Lord Judge, who retired as Lord Chief Justice in October, has called for a change in legislation to make clear that British courts do not have to implement Strasbourg rulings.
In a speech to the Constitution Unit at University College London, he said that controversial matters such as prisoners' voting rights were a matter for UK Parliament. "You can argue for and against prisoner voting rights. You can argue for and against the whole life tariff. Reasonable people will take different views," he said.
"My personal belief is that sovereignty on these issues should not be exported, and we should beware of the danger of even an indirect importation of the slightest obligation on Parliament to comply with the orders and directions of any court, let alone a foreign court."
Judge declared that Strasbourg "is not superior to our Supreme Court" in London and warned about the dangers of an emerging "democratic deficit" if the ECHR effectively becomes a law-making body for the UK.
He wants to see the Human Rights Act 1998 amended to say that the "obligation to take account of the decisions of the Strasbourg court did not mean that our Supreme Court was required to follow or apply those decisions" and that the Supreme Court is "at the very least a court of equal standing with the Strasbourg court".
His comments come a week after Lord Justice Laws, the longest-serving Court of Appeal judge, called on UK courts to stop deferring to Strasbourg on every issue. A week before that Lord Sumption, the Supreme Court justice, criticised the ECHR for exceeding its legitimate powers and undermining the democratic process.
The Guardian describes their interventions as "clear evidence of growing judicial resentment" of the absolute authority of the Strasbourg court. ·