Eady stepping down as top libel judge does not affect the need for libel reform
From 1 October 2010, Sir David Eady will no longer be the senior libel and privacy judge at the High Court (also see report here). He will still be able to hear libel and privacy trials — he is not retiring outright — but he will no longer pick and choose which media law cases go before him.
This is welcome news; but not because Mr Justice Eady is particularly culpable as a judge. In fact, Sir David Eady is generally no worse and no better than any other judge applying the dysfunctional English law of libel. He has given almost as many heartening liberal defamation judgments as dreadfully illiberal judgments. And his contribution to the development of privacy law is commendable: the mainstream media is now less likely to intrude upon people’s personal space and misuse private information just because of his rulings.
It is instead welcome news because it de-personalises a complex problem. The problems with libel law are to do with the substance of the law and the way it is litigated and threatened, and not because of any particular judge….
David Allen Green ends with these words – which I agree with….“The awful — indeed dispreputable — state of English libel law will still be there the morning after he steps down.”
MPs’ expenses case taken to Supreme Court
The Telegraph reports: Three former Labour MPs charged with fraud over their parliamentary expenses are to take their case to the Supreme Court.
Elliot Morley, David Chaytor and Jim Devine are to appeal to the country’s most senior judges at a hearing next month. The three, along with Lord Hanningfield, a Tory peer also accused of expenses fraud, are due to go on trial in November. But they claim that they cannot be tried in ordinary criminal courts because of centuries-old laws on parliamentary privilege. Three Court of Appeal judges found against them in July saying that they could not envisage how the ancient defence could ever cover “ordinary criminal activities” by MPs and. But the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, ruled that there was a “point of general public importance” for Britain’s highest court to rule on.
I am no expert on Constitutional Law but the Court of Appeal decision was very robust, clear and to the point; and while it is right that justice pursues its course and matters of public importance are considered by our highest court, one can’t help feeling that the Justices of the Supreme Court will have little difficulty in dealing with this issue on parliamentary privilege and confirm the decision of the Court of Appeal. We shall see in time – but if they find for the MPs the judgments will keep constitutional law experts busy for a while. It will also mean, of course, that Parliament will have try the MPs. Will they use Westminster Hall? One thing is for certain… the MPs will not be able to use the plea of Charles I…“I would know by what power I am called hither, by what lawful authority…?”
As an aside, I saw on Twitter that a YouGov poll revealed that 51% of people want to restore the death penalty. I had no idea there were so many medieval barbarians alive and well in Britain today.. but..there you are.