Lord Burnett was principally concerned with judicial independence and his speech draws strongly on a speech in 2016 by Lord Hodge - Upholding the rule of law: how we preserve judicial independence in the United Kingdom (pdf).
Lord Burnett touches upon
the attack on the judiciary - "Enemies of the People" - when the High Court decided the Article 50 Notification case - previous post. In that case the judges were called upon to decide how, as a matter of domestic law, Article 50 had to be triggered.
Lord Burnett said:
previous post. Parliament then enacted the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Act 2017 which received Royal Assent on 16 March 2017 - previous post. The Prime Minister triggered the article on 29 March. Such was the speed of events!
Lord Burnett also warned judges against making public comments in areas of controversy such as "no fault divorce." In the recent case of Owens v Owens the Supreme Court "contended itself with suggesting that the time had come for Parliament to look again at what is now rather antique legislation given developments in society over the last 50 years rather than prescribing a suggested policy solution."
The word "antique" might well be seen as itself being a statement that the law ought to be changed but that may not be a fair reading of the speech. The legislation in question is 45 years old and there can be little doubt that attitudes to divorce have changed within an appreciable percentage of the population. Should separated couples who had an unhappy marriage have to wait 5 years for a divorce when one party refuses consent? That is the question that legislators will need to address.
In the Owens case, the principal judgment was given by Lord Wilson and concluded:
Lord Burnett's speech ended:
Judiciary - Becoming stronger together