Letter: Risky judgments

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The Independent Online
From Professor John Griffith

Sir: You report ("Ministers `not above the rule of law' ", 27 February) the Lord Chief Justice in BBC 1's On the Record as calling for Britain to incorporate the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law. In the same programme, I warned of the great dangers of such a step, as it would deeply involve judges in the political process.

Article 2 of the Convention, for example, provides: "Everyone's right to life shall be protected by law." Interpreting this Article, judges would be called on to decide the legality of abortion.

Lord Taylor deplored the scrutiny of the appointment of individual judges as happens in the US. But if judges are to determine such social and political questions, their views are a proper subject for examination prior to appointment.

More fundamentally, one question is consistently evaded by the proponents of incorporation. Under a Bill of Rights, Acts of Parliament may be declared unconstitutional and invalid by the courts. The democratic process is set aside in favour of the political. Does the Lord Chief Justice subscribe to that?

Yours truly,


Marlow, Buckinghamshire

27 February

The writer is Emeritus Professor of Public Law in the University of London.