Thursday, November 27, 2008

Should judges respond to criticism

David Pannick has been asking in today's Times if judges should respond to criticism, after the editor of the Daily Mail recently severely criticised Mr Justice Eady's approach to interpreting the Human Rights Act.

"In 1900, the editor of the Birmingham Daily Argos was fined £100 by the Lord Chief Justice for describing Mr Justice Darling as an “impudent little man in horsehair”... Today, we rightly take a more tolerant approach to criticism of the judiciary. But the critical comments by Paul Dacre, Editor of the Daily Mail, about the judgments of Mr Justice Eady in privacy cases raise important questions about how judges should respond.

In a speech to the Society of Editors on November 9, Dacre accused Mr Justice Eady of “an animus against the popular press”, and complained that the judge had given “arrogant and amoral judgments” that had created a privacy law “with a stroke of his pen”. However strongly Dacre may resent privacy law (except, of course, when his newspaper is campaigning against local authority “snoopers” who pry into the contents of our dustbins), there is no justification for the criticisms.

Justice Eady has faithfully performed his duty to implement the Human Rights Act, which includes a legal right to the protection of private life, and to apply the principles developed by the Court of Appeal and by the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords in a number of recent cases involving newspapers. Any litigant who is dissatisfied with the judgments given by Mr Justice Eady may seek to appeal to the Court of Appeal, to the House of Lords and to the European Court of Human Rights. "

Well said. Mr Justice Eady's decisions, in a variety of human rights and internet defamation cases that I'm familiar with, have always been well framed, carefully considered and thoughtful, even though I haven't always agreed with him. I can only wholeheartedly agree with David Pannick that there is no justification for the attack made by Paul Dacre on the esteemed judge.

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