Letter: Why judges want a Bill of Rights

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Sir: Polly Toynbee (2 August) thinks that a Bill of Rights would secure essential principles to guide all future legislation, rules by which the courts would be bound in their interpretation of Parliament's laws and that this would be more democratic than allowing judges "to make it up as they go along".

Whom can she have been talking to? It sounds suspiciously like the Charter 88 mob, who are well known to be among the great misleaders of our generation. If Ms Toynbee reads the Bill of Rights, she will see that it confers powers on the judges far beyond the dreams of Lord Woolf and Mrs Justice Laws. If the Government is, for example, alleged to have infringed the freedom of expression under the Bill, all they have to show to the satisfaction of the judges is that the restraint they imposed was "necessity in a democratic society" [European Convention on Human Rights, Article 10]. Does she want judges to have that power of interpretation?

Perhaps Ms Toynbee would ask herself one question: if a Bill of Rights would act as a restraint on judicial power, why are so many senior judges and so many QCs in favour of it?

Yours faithfully

J. A. G. Griffith

Marlow, Buckinghamshire

3 August

The writer is emeritus professor of public law, University of London.