Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Lord Sumption - Reith Lectures 2019

In January 2012, Lord Sumption was appointed as a Justice of the Supreme Court directly from the Bar.  In December 2018 he reached the compulsory retirement age of 70 years and had to retire even though he can be invited to sit as a member of the court until he reaches age 75 - See his Valedictory via the Supreme Court website.  In May 2017, Lord Neuberger said - “ ... the situation is demonstrably illogical as judges who must retire at 70 are able to sit as part-time judges until reaching 75, and people can be jurors until 75.”

Lord Sumption has delivered the BBC's annual Reith Lectures
which were broadcast on Radio 4.

There are five lectures entitled:

1.  Law's expanding empire - the law is taking over the space once occupied by politics.

2.  In praise of politics - democracy has the unique power to accommodate opposing opinions and interests

3.  Human Rights and Wrongs - judges - especially those of the European Court of Human Rights - have usurped power by expanding the interpretation of human rights law

4.  Rights and the ideal constitution - the pros and cons of written and unwritten constitutions, comparing the US and UK

5.  Shifting the foundations - argues against Britain adopting a written constitution

The lectures presuppose that the listener has a reasonable level of knowledge of topics such as the British constitution, the rule of law, and human rights and their protection by the law.

Each lecture is followed by about 15 minutes of questions and answers.  These are worth listening to.  For example, regarding the EU referendum, Sumption said - "... politics is not delivering at the moment because we only have one issue in our public life, namely Brexit. The reason why politics is not delivering on Brexit is that we have adopted a system of decision-making, namely a referendum, which is deliberately designed to circumvent the political process." 

Comment regarding the lectures may be read at:

Judicial Power Project

The Justice Gap - Human Rights Archive

See also the London Review of Books article by retired Lord Justice of Appeal, Sir Stephen Sedley. 

Sumption's lectures are now published in book form - Trials of the State: Law and the Decline of Politics by Jonathan Sumption - Profile, 128 pp, £9.99, August, ISBN 978 1 78816 372 9

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