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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 July 2006, 20:06 GMT 21:06 UK
Judiciary 'in touch with reality'
Lord Phillips
Lord Phillips says judges shop just as everyone does
Judges are more in touch with the world than most people, thanks to their job, the Lord Chief Justice has insisted.

Their role means they see a unique picture of society, said Lord Phillips, England and Wales' most senior judge.

He said judges used supermarkets and buses like everyone else, but their job gave them an insight into all sectors of society "shared by very few".

His comments, at the Lord Mayor of London's annual judges' dinner, follow recent controversies over sentencing.

The most high-profile recent case involved paedophile Craig Sweeney, who was given a life sentence but told he could seek parole in five years.

Lord Phillips condemned some newspapers for personal attacks on judges over sentences - as happened to Judge John Griffith Williams over the Sweeney sentence, handed down at Cardiff Crown Court in June.

Judicial independence requires judges to reach their decisions without fear or favour, affection of ill-will
Lord Phillips

"We do not live on run-down estates, but we do travel on buses, Tubes and bicycles," said Lord Phillips.

"We push trolleys around supermarkets, we have normal family concerns and commitments and neither are judges immune from the impact of crime.

"Day by day our work gives us an insight into what is happening in all sectors of society, which is shared by very few."

He described attacks on judges as "intemperate, offensive and unfair". And he stressed it was valuable for judges and ministers to co-operate to improve the justice system.

Ministerial attacks

In the Sweeney case, Home Secretary John Reid made a request for the Attorney General Lord Goldsmith to review the sentence.

But Lord Phillips told the audience at the Mansion House: "Judicial independence requires judges to reach their decisions without fear or favour, affection or ill-will.

"Our task is to apply the law with objectivity to the best of our ability, and this is something that ministers must understand and respect - and I believe that they do."

Later the Lord Chancellor, Lord Falconer of Thoroton, told the event that ministers should not launch attacks on the judiciary.

"Whilst it is perfectly legitimate for ministers to address policy issues raised by individual judgements, ministers should not criticise judges," he said.

"Just as judges don't do politics, ministers don't try cases.

"That has always been the core of the relationship between the executive and the judiciary. That is how it should remain."

Confidence in judges 'undermined'
04 Jul 06 |  UK Politics
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