Judges 'must leave radical reforms to MPs'

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The Independent Online

Judges should leave radical law reform to parliament, the country's first female law lord urged last night.

Judges should leave radical law reform to parliament, the country's first female law lord urged last night.

Baroness Hale of Richmond, who was appointed to the House of Lords this year, said judges were "unaccountable to the electorate" and their decision-making processes were "exclusionary".

Delivering The Independent and Law Reform Committee lecture in London, Lady Hale said that judges "were not well-equipped to determine public policy debates".

She warned: "If judges rely on their own perceptions of the policy debate, they may be leaving out whole swaths of the argument which others might draw to their attention."

But there were, she said, some judges who considered themselves "well equipped" to conduct some public debates. "That does not mean they should do so," she said.

Her comments will no doubt be welcomed by the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, who has said that judges have used the Human Rights Acts to undermine government policy.

The appointment of Lady Hale as one of the 12 law lords, the first woman to serve in the country's highest appeal court, was widely welcomed by the public and the legal profession.

She said last night: "I was gratified but astonished by the delight with which my appointment was greeted by women lawyers. This was not just because of the glass-ceiling breakthrough, the model which others might follow, or the dent in the allegedly homogeneous mass of the 'pale male' judiciary. There was a sense that the judicial product might be subtly changed or even improved by having a woman among the law lords."