Britain’s supreme court: Day one

By Ian Dunt

Britain’s newly formed Supreme Court swore in its judges today, as the Law Lords travelled to the other side of Parliament Square in what may one day be considered a historic day in British constitutional arrangements.

The move finally separated lawmakers from acting as members of the judiciary, as is the case in most other western countries.

Lord Phillips, who has been made president of the court, said: “This is the last step in the separation of powers in this country.

“We have come to it fairly gently and gradually, but we have come to the point where the judges are completely separated from the legislature and executive.

“The change is one of transparency. It’s going to be very much easier for the public to come to our hearings.

“I would hope that the court is still sitting in 100 years time and that when people look back at this step that they see it as a very significant step in the constitution of this country.”

Proceedings will be open to the public at all times, with cafes and reception facilities being placed in the foyer of the building to make it more welcoming.

The arrangements – described as window dressing by some critics – are aimed at countering the stuffy, superior image of the Law Lords in the House of Lords, who were previously the highest court of appeal in the land.

Law Lord rulings were filmed in the Lords, but advocates hope the more transparent nature of the supreme court, complete with full-time filming, will help inform the public about what goes on there.

That role has now been adopted by the Supreme Court, although it has no jurisdiction over Scotland.

The court, which cost £59 million, is currently comprised of 11 of the Law Lords, and one other individual, who will be appointed at a later date.