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Lord Chief Justice says judges ‘discharge responsibilities without fear or favour’

Lord Chief Justice says judges ‘discharge responsibilities without fear or favour’
Dominic Raab says his proposed Bill of Rights will allow British judges to be ‘free’

The country’s most senior judge has warned of an “increasingly febrile” atmosphere for his colleagues and vowed that they would “continue to discharge their responsibilities without fear or favour”.

O Lord Chief Justice has been forced to defend the legal profession from a series of government attacks following decisions against ministers and their policies.

Broadsides by ministers against “activist lawyers” have become frequent, while courts and judges themselves have been accused of being biased and overstepping their powers.

Addressing an annual dinner held for judges by the Lord Mayor of London on Wednesday evening, the Lord Chief Justice said: “Life seems to have become increasingly febrile and commentary on aspects of the judiciary have not been immune.

“Through these extraordinary times all judges will continue to discharge their responsibilities without fear or favour, whatever is thrown our way: critical commentary, whatever its source, will not deter us from continuing to do so.”

Lord Burnett of Maldon hailed the “importance of the rule of law in the affairs of our great nation” and “the contribution that an independent judiciary makes to the rule of law”.

His comments came as the government backs a controversial Bill of Rights, which would repeal the Human Rights Act and has been described as part of wider “backsliding” by the UK.

The Lord Chief Justice did not comment on ongoing strike action by criminal barristers over the legal aid scheme, which sees the government pay legal fees for the defence of suspects who cannot afford private representation.

In a speech following the Lord Chief Justice, Dominic Raab accused the Criminal Bar Association of “holding back” progress to cut a record backlog of court cases.

The justice secretary said he hoped that they would “reconsider their position”, but the group is threatening the Ministry of Justice with legal action over its continued refusal to backdate a planned fee rise in September to cover current cases.

Mr Raab said his Bill of Rights was “about building on our traditions of liberty by reinforcing quintessentially UK rights”, adicionando: “It’s precisely because we value you that we want you to be free – as UK judges, making decisions in the interests of justice in this country – to diverge from Strasbourg case law where appropriate.”