The Judicial Independence Project recently held its third seminar for professionals (judges, politicians, civil servants and journalists, amongst others) on the topic of ‘Judicial Independence and Accountability: The Role of Parliament’.
The discussion focused on the relationship between Parliament and the courts and reference was made to the idea of ‘comity’ as the basis for this relationship: mutual respect combined with distance. Some worried, however, that comity might freeze relations so that there is little communication between both sides. It was noted that there is no constitutional bar to political criticism of the judiciary. It was generally agreed that criticism (even unfair criticism) does not affect the independence of judges.
Several speakers emphasised also that the high profile breaches of super-injunctions and anonymised injunctions by parliamentarians in 2011 were not breaches of the sub judice rule but rather breaches of court orders which are not captured by that rule. Injunctions of this kind raise different issues to sub judice and a new rule may be required.
The seminar was run under Chatham House Rule, but we have prepared a short anonymised note of the discussion.