The Justice Secretary has come under fire for failing to defend the integrity of the judiciary after judges were branded “enemies of the people” by Brexiteers.
Three High Court justices were subject to a tirade of “hysterical headlines” from newspapers after they ruled that the Government would be acting unlawfully if it tried to start EU negotiations without a parliamentary vote.
The Daily Mail newspaper branded the judges “enemies of the people”, with their pictures splash across its front page – while the Daily Express said democracy had died with the decision.
Prominent Brexiteers also weighed in, with Ukip leadership candidate Suzanne Evans arguing the judges should be sacked and Tory MP David Davies claiming that decisions such as the High Court’s were “precisely why we voted out”.
A survey of social media posts found dozens of irate Brexit supporters saying the judges should be executed or shot.
Richard Burgon, Labour’s shadow justice minister, said it was Justice Secretary Liz Truss’s job to defend the integrity of the judiciary.
“Respecting the EU Referendum result is the right and democratic thing to do. Strong views were expressed by both sides. Judges in the High Court are there to interpret the law regardless of their personal views and that it what they have done, he said.
“There is a constitutional process which must be followed. Some of the headlines in today's newspapers personally attacking the judges who heard this case are unacceptable.
“As Lord Chancellor, Liz Truss should not stay silent. It is the Lord Chancellor's job to uphold the independence of British judges and she must speak out urgently against the hysterical headlines of some papers and these attacks on British justice."
Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron also weighed in, warning that Ms Truss had to condemn the “disgrace”.
“Where is Liz Truss? Her job is to uphold the rule of law and defend the judiciary and yet, she is utterly silent while judges are being attacked by some newspapers,” he said.
“Our hard fought rights and freedoms are protected by the law, British law that the Brexiteers claim that they wish to uphold. My message to Liz Truss is clear: this is a disgrace. Condemn it now.”
Asked about the tone of press coverage around the decision, Prime Minister’s spokesperson said he did not think the judiciary was being undermined.
“I think the debate around leaving the European Union or remaining in the European Union has been well played out in the last few months,” he told a briefing of journalists in Westminster.
“I don’t accept the question. I don’t think the British judiciary is being undermined. I’m not going to comment on newspaper coverage of yesterday’s court case”.
No statement from the Justice Secretary has been issued at the time of publication. The Independent has contacted the Ministry of Justice for comment on this story.
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