|Supreme Court of the U.K.|
The phrase "Superior Court of Record" has been used a few times recently by Parliament - e.g. the Upper Tribunal was created by the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 and is designated as a "superior court of record." The modern Court of Protection
is similarly designated (Mental Capacity Act 2005 Part 2). The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) was designated some time after its creation: Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2011 s.35. Does this phrase mean that a body designated as a "superior court of record" cannot be judicially reviewable by the High Court? Although the phrase has been used for many years in relation to courts, the meaning is not entirely clear. Generally, "superior courts" (e.g. the High Court) have powers to enforce their decisions by using contempt of court powers. The term "superior court" is used by way of contrast with "inferior courts" (e.g. Magistrates - which have statutory contempt powers used to maintain order in proceedings). The words "of record" may have historical connotations from the times when records were kept on vellum. Whether the phrase immunises the body from judicial review is a tricky issue. The Court of Appeal (Civil Division) in a very lengthy and detailed judgment has said that it does not have that effect though judicial review will only be available in certain limited situations. The Scottish Court of Session has said that it does not have that effect. The matter is now being argued over four days in the Supreme Court with seven Justices sitting. Fuller details on this may be read on the Supreme Court blog.
Petition of Blajosse Charlotte Eba  CSOH 45 (Court of Session Outer House) and also Court of Session (Inner House)- see the judgment.
A third case, also raising the same point of law, will be decided in the same proceedings: R (MR) v The Upper Tribunal.
One cannot help but think that a great deal of very expensive litigation might have been avoided if Parliament made its intentions crystal clear about whether these courts and tribunals should be judicially reviewable and, if so, on what grounds. Reliance on an essentially archaic phrase of uncertain meaning - "superior court of record" - is deeply unsatisfactory.
Bradley Manning - some time ago Law and Lawyers took a look at plea bargaining and mentioned the case of Bradley Manning who is held in a United States prison. There have been some disturbing reports about his treatment by the authorities - e.g. "Stripped naked every night ..." - Guardian 11th March. As CharonQC points out this COULD come within the scope of cruel and unusual punishment and, if so, would appear to be unconstitutional in U.S. law - (Constitution 8th Amendment).
European Arrest Warrants - almost daily stories are now appearing about the undesirable aspects of these warrants. Here is another such story - "Greek Justice is no justice for the Briton left in limbo" - Telegraph 13th March 2011 (Andrew Gilligan).
Defamation Bill - the government has issued a draft Defamation Bill which is open for consultation. The Consultation Paper (including draft Bill) are available here. See also "The Defamation Bill - few surprises and little radicalism" - Legal week. "Jury's out: government unveils draft libel reforms" - Solicitor's Journal 15th March. One aspect of the Bill is that juries in defamation cases will become very very rare - which, in practice, will probably will mean never. Currently, these cases are one of the few remaining situations in which a jury is used in a civil action.