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It's probably more to do with them having more more of a political role - which they've always had, given the Court's role, although since the 1950s, their taking a more active role has made the stakes much, much higher (as your Sharpener post touched on the other day).

The gradual evolution of the English judiciary, especially since the HRA, will take us much closer to the US situation. To give just one example, the cheering among liberal people of the majority opinion in the Belmarsh case (and especially Hoffman's judgement) was a big change; if the Tories had been in power, it would have sent us absolutely up the wall. The more this goes on, the more questioning there'll be over judicial appointments.

Third Avenue

You're right in stressing their 'political role'. I think one could argue that the democratic scrutiny they undergo is no small contributing factor to increasing the political nature of their role.

As for the HRA - it is a very timid beast compared to the US constitution (or compared to our own European Communities Act). Judges are unable to rewrite legislation. The HRA gives them to power only to strongly disapprove, but they cannot order laws to be changed (the way to do this is via Strasbourg, and that has been the case since 1950).

On the purely domestic front, judges have been pissing off our elected masters no end in striking down decisions at least since the Wednesbury case in the 1940s. I rather suspect the change in attitude is more to do with diminishing deference and a more vocal media, rather than any actual changes in judges' power.

As for Belmarsh - well, you already know my views here. That a Labour government could introduce such a loathsome piece of legislation...


Yes, it's been growing for a long while, but accelerating I think since HRA. My feeling is that those trends you speak of are giving them more confidence to act, although as you say, the legal framework is as yet limited.

About Belmarsh - my point was that if a Tory Government had been in power, the Party would've been in uproar, whereas because many in the Labour Party were uneasy anyway, there was no fight from the Government. The flipside is that the Labour leadership will probably turn significantly away from the earlier, more judge-friendly mood that gave us the HRA.

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