Supreme Court independence ‘threatened’ by funding

The president of the UK’s Supreme Court has warned that its independence cannot be properly guaranteed because of the way it is funded by the government.In a speech in London, Lord Phillips said the court was dependant on what it could persuade the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) to give “by way of contribution”.He also complained that senior court staff were torn between loyalty to him and to ministers.The government said it was “fully committed” to judicial independence.e Supreme Court was set up in 2009, replacing the Law Lords.Its aim was to emphasise the separation between Parliament’s lawmakers and the judges charged with overseeing legislation.In his speech on Tuesday – entitled “Judicial Independence” – Lord Phillips said that very independence was threatened by the funding arrangements currently in place.He talked of a tendency on the part of the MoJ to try to annex the Supreme Court as “an outlying part of its empire”.

He also complained that the court’s chief executive Jenny Rowe should owe her primary loyalty to him, but some in the MoJ clearly felt she should answer to them.The MoJ is facing large cuts to its budget and has announced the closure of dozens of county and magistrates’ courts.Last year, Ms Rowe warned that swingeing cuts to the Supreme Court’s funds would leave it unable to function.Following Lord Phillips’s speech, an MoJ spokesman said: “The government is fully committed to the principle of an independent judiciary.”As with all public services, the Supreme Court cannot be immune from the need to deliver efficiencies.”In presenting the Supreme Court’s bid for funding to Treasury, the Lord Chancellor of course takes into account the views of the court and the potential impact on its business plan.”During its first 15 months, the Supreme Court has made a series of landmark rulings.It also cleared the way for MPs to face criminal trials following the expenses scandal – BBC