Liz Truss has failed in her statutory duties and may have broken the law by keeping a near-silence in the face of a torrent of abuse targeting three high court judges, a former Lord Chief Justice has warned.
After the Brexit ruling – in which three judges declared the Prime Minister needed parliamentary approval to trigger Article 50 – the justices were met with a wave of highly personal vitriol, with the Daily Mail branding them “enemies of the people”.
Ms Truss’s failure to come to the defence of the judiciary for nearly 48 hours – and her lukewarm response when she did – means if she were taken to court she would likely be found to have acted unlawfully, Lord Igor Judge said.
He claimed the Lord Chancellor’s silence constituted a “very serious” failing in her legal obligations.
“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,” he told The Times.
Lord Judge, who served as Lord Chief Justice from 2008 to 2013, said Ms Truss’s hesitation in responding and the wording of her eventual statement, which was similar to a comment made by the Prime Minister, indicated she had collaborated with Downing Street.
“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,” he said.
The former top judge’s remarks were echoed by Labour’s shadow Lord Chancellor Richard Burgon, who wrote earlier in November: “When Truss took office she swore an oath to uphold the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law.
“A mature democracy – and a mature government – doesn’t stand by while the judiciary gets a roasting.”
One leading QC, who did not want to be named, told The Independent: "Her failure degraded the position of lord chancellor and it may be that other constitutional requirements will have to be made if the [she] can't uphold the independence of the judiciary.
"This particular lord chancellor has no respect among the legal profession and it may be that the historic duty to uphold the independence of the judiciary should devolve to someone else.
"She has not done her legal duty, but other distinguished lawyers think that even if she did, she wouldn't be up to [the job].
They added: "Anyone could take her to court — but the real question is whether she is capable."
Relations between the judiciary and the Government appeared to deteriorate further following the Brexit ruling when six high court judges launched legal action against Ms Truss on the grounds they had been discriminated against.
What experts have said about Brexit
What experts have said about Brexit
1/11 Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond
The Chancellor claims London can still be a world financial hub despite Brexit “One of Britain’s great strengths is the ability to offer and aggregate all of the services the global financial services industry needs” “This has not changed as a result of the EU referendum and I will do everything I can to ensure the City of London retains its position as the world’s leading international financial centre.”
2/11 Yanis Varoufakis
Greece's former finance minister compared the UK relations with the EU bloc with a well-known song by the Eagles: “You can check out any time you like, as the Hotel California song says, but you can't really leave. The proof is Theresa May has not even dared to trigger Article 50. It's like Harrison Ford going into Indiana Jones' castle and the path behind him fragmenting. You can get in, but getting out is not at all clear”
3/11 Michael O’Leary
Ryanair boss says UK will be ‘screwed’ by EU in Brexit trade deals: “I have no faith in the politicians in London going on about how ‘the world will want to trade with us’. The world will want to screw you – that's what happens in trade talks,” he said. “They have no interest in giving the UK a deal on trade”
4/11 Tim Martin
JD Wetherspoon's chairman has said claims that the UK would see serious economic consequences from a Brexit vote were "lurid" and wrong: “We were told it would be Armageddon from the OECD, from the IMF, David Cameron, the chancellor and President Obama who were predicting locusts in the fields and tidal waves in the North Sea"
5/11 Mark Carney
Governor of Bank of England is 'serene' about Bank of England's Brexit stance: “I am absolutely serene about the … judgments made both by the MPC and the FPC”
6/11 Christine Lagarde
IMF chief urges quick Brexit to reduce economic uncertainty: “We want to see clarity sooner rather than later because we think that a lack of clarity feeds uncertainty, which itself undermines investment appetites and decision making”
7/11 Inga Beale
Lloyd’s chief executive says Brexit is a major issue: "Clearly the UK's referendum on its EU membership is a major issue for us to deal with and we are now focusing our attention on having in place the plans that will ensure Lloyd's continues trading across Europe”
8/11 Colm Kelleher
President of US bank Morgan Stanley says City of London ‘will suffer’ as result of the EU referendum: “I do believe, and I said prior to the referendum, that the City of London will suffer as result of Brexit. The issue is how much”
9/11 Richard Branson
Virgin founder believes we've lost a THIRD of our value because of Brexit and cancelled a deal worth 3,000 jobs: We're not any worse than anybody else, but I suspect we've lost a third of our value which is dreadful for people in the workplace.' He continued: "We were about to do a very big deal, we cancelled that deal, that would have involved 3,000 jobs, and that’s happening all over the country"
10/11 Barack Obama
US President believes Britain was wrong to vote to leave the EU: "It is absolutely true that I believed pre-Brexit vote and continue to believe post-Brexit vote that the world benefited enormously from the United Kingdom's participation in the EU. We are fully supportive of a process that is as little disruptive as possible so that people around the world can continue to benefit from economic growth"
11/11 Kristin Forbes
American economist and an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England argues that the economy had been “less stormy than many expected” following the shock referendum result: “For now…the economy is experiencing some chop, but no tsunami. The adverse winds could quickly pick up – and merit a stronger policy response. But recently they have shifted to a more favourable direction”
Ms Truss told The Times: “An independent judiciary is the cornerstone of the rule of law. I take my duty as Lord Chancellor to defend that independence very seriously.
“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.”
Following the decision that Parliament must be involved with triggering Article 50, Theresa May has changed her legal case for the right to start Brexit without MPs consent.Reuse content